Awarded to Paul Watts
For a director, I’d liken the process of editing to be somewhere between going to the hairdresser and visiting a therapist, probably erring slightly more towards the hairdresser. You go into it exhausted and anxious, looking like shit and with your self-confidence at a crushing low, and then the editor will go about gently and skillfully rebuilding you. They’ll then, if there’s enough time left, have a good crack at your edit.
This is the bit where they take the fragmented ruins you show up with, and, via an unknowable, almost alchemical process, meld it into something triumphant. Watching a truly great editor at work is like watching the most wonderful kind of magic trick, because by arranging shots together in a certain order something transcendent occurs that seems to exist way beyond the constituent parts you’ve provided. They breathe life back into your vision. They put back the beating heart.
Anyway, I say all this because it’s probably not my place to begin listing the countless seminal commercials and films that Paul Watts has cut over the years (legends don’t really need you to do this for them), or the jaw-dropping inspiration his work has provided for a generation of young film-makers and editors (though I would like to cite Stella’s ‘Ice-Skating Priests’ as my own personal jaw-drop moment). But I can say a few words about what a humbling experience it is to work with an artist as skilled and knowledgeable as Paul, and how extraordinary I find his own particular brand of hairdressing, therapy, alchemy and magic.
Meeting your heroes can fall one way or the other, but Paul disarms you with his goodness from the second you step into the room. His creative and emotional investment in what you’re doing is absolute. His cavernous experience belies the wide-openness with which he approaches each project. He has that diamond-cut, perfectly-faceted blend of honesty, generosity, patience and loyalty. He’s quick but not too quick. He trims, slides and bumps shots together in ways that make the hairs on your neck prickle, and your own work unrecognisable to yourself. He has a thick and lustrous head of hair, looks great in tight jeans and can tell you some good stories about fishing.
He also has an unprecedented gift for invisibility. Look at his VW ‘Last Tango in Compton’ spot, or HSBC’s ‘Lumberjack’ and you won’t notice Paul’s editing at all; you’ll be beguiled by a mesmeric dialogue between two lovers played out with movement instead of words, and a profoundly moving tale of conflict and forgiveness. And that’s just about as great a compliment as I could ever hope to offer to an editor.
I can’t think of a more worthy recipient of the Fellowship Award.
(L-R) Paul Watts (The Quarry)
(L-R) Charlie Crompton (British Arrows Chairman), Paul Watts (The Quarry)