Global Editing – Australia

Australian Screen Editors (www.screeneditors.com.au) last year celebrated our ‘coming of age’ – our 21st birthday as a guild, 15 years of awarding accreditation and 10 years of presenting our own peer-judged editors’ awards, the Ellies. We are not a union, and our aim is to support and recognize excellence in both the creative and technical fields of visual post-production. ASE is primarily a volunteer association, being run by five active and dedicated committees across Australia, serving our membership of around 500.

Members are primarily editors, assistants, visual effects artists, compositors, online editors, colorists, and postproduction supervisors. They work in all areas of screen production, including features, documentary, television, short film, reality, music video, online content, streaming and VR. Full membership requires at least one professional screen credit and at least one referee to vouch for you (this does not necessarily have to be an ASE member – a professional credit is required and an accredited professional reference is accepted). We offer free student membership and also have associate membership for others who work in the industry.

The ASE runs a number of events throughout the year, getting editors out of one dark room into another to view and discuss the things that are important to us. We often combine with other guilds, for example the Screen Producers of Australia (SPA) association joined us this year in a session on closed captions and audio description.

The technical details of making our productions more accessible was an eye-opening experience for many, and gave us insight into another area of post which requires preparation and budgeting. We run ‘Meet the Editor’ sessions where our members discuss how they brought their productions to completion, along with details of schedules, ratios and general war stories from the cutting room.

This year we have covered reality television, feature documentary, music videos, observational documentary and television drama. We also combined with the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards (AACTA) to meet the nominated editors for the annual AACTA awards. We have had an ASE presence with master classes presented at film festivals across the country, as well as freelance survival workshops and very successful freelance business skills training courses for editors. We have had great interest in, and cries to repeat, our ‘Facilities Crawl,’ taking tours through various sponsors’ post-production facilities, getting a peek at what they do, along with handy hints about what is involved working in and with those facilities.

We have also held fun events where we set teams of editors up with some crafty challenges – working on different platforms, including Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere Pro, to cut a small project such as a music video or commercial, projecting their edits to a heckling audience as they go. Various challenges are thrown at the editors – having to change the music halfway through, media going offline, a last-minute restructure and cutdown. The usual editors’ working-day challenges! The audience gets to ask questions and compare systems and styles – educational and a fun collaboration! Union membership is not strong in the Australian screen industry; the standard working week is 50 hours per week, with the majority of screen editors working in a freelance capacity. There has been a concern for a long time that wages have become stagnant and budgets are tight as the industry transitions to streaming services rather than our traditional free-to-air television.

Editors feel that schedules are getting tighter and they are working longer hours without fully knowing their rights and entitlements. So a major focus for the ASE recently has been the production of a rates-and-conditions card for our members. This has been very carefully researched and designed to work within the framework of the Australian screen industry and legal requirements.

The release of this document has been very welcome. Concurrently we have offered training in negotiation, marketing, networking, contractual skills, along with taxation and insurance obligations. This was very popular, with calls for more courses like this. The ASE also works with an association of guilds called the Australian Screen Industry Group to discuss common industry concerns and to provide a link with funding bodies, unions, the government and other groups, such as distributors. The Australian Federal Government recently launched an inquiry into the sustainability of the Australian film and television industry.

We have been involved in providing submissions and as a result the ASE was privileged to be invited to appear in Federal Parliament as witnesses for the inquiry. So in all we are proud of the work of the ASE; we have an active membership, and keep in touch via a bimonthly newsletter, regular news emails and, of course, Facebook. We also provide a mentorship scheme which provides support across the editing platforms, ages and genres and our editors and guild have much success in the various film festivals across Australia. And, of course, we are very proud to celebrate our editors’ achievements each year at our end-of-year bash and Ellie Awards.

At present we have 15 sponsors that support the ASE throughout the year, helping facilitate our events, supporting our awards and holding naming rights for the various categories. We are very grateful for this ongoing support which keeps our membership active, alive and enthusiastic, keeping us up to date with current technologies and trends.