On Chesil Beach’s editor discusses his role and how, no matter the style or genre, everything he does stems from the actors. Read the rest of our On Chesil Beach Special Issue here.
On Chesil Beach is a feat of editing: through intricately placed flashbacks, we see a sweet romance unfold, juxtaposed with that same couple’s excruciatingly awkward wedding night. How do you balance those two tones without deflating either? How do you find a meaningful way to transition back and forth in time? Editor Nick Fenton delicately pieced these fragments together.
I spoke to Fenton about approaching that flashback structure, how his editing is guided completely by performance, and how his job as the “first audience” of the film allowed him to advise on reshoots, making the film’s cinematic language even more dynamic
Seventh Row (7R): What stood out to you when you first read the script?
Nick Fenton (NF): The themes that the film and the book explore just came flying off the screenplay when I first read it. It was a time that I haven’t lived through, but I was very intrigued by it, because it was the time when my parents would have got married. They had very similar backgrounds, and these are issues that they would have had to grapple with. Despite the period we live in, it’s still a very important topic that isn’t really discussed. We all have to live through it at some point in our lives.
7R: Costume designer Keith Madden told us that he made his designs less period specific because he felt that the story has modern relevance.
NF: In its cinematic language, as well, you don’t want the film to be out of place in time. People are very sophisticated in the way they tell, read, or watch stories nowadays. You don’t want it to be like you’re making a film in the ‘60s.
How we went back and forth between the time periods and how we dealt with memory was very important. There was a constant effort and desire to get it right so that the film itself feels modern in its language, but also to be very true to the period. Finding that balance was interesting. Music was very important in terms of time-posting what period we are in.
We’ve interviewed several other editors for our Special Issues, including Jonathan Alberts (45 Years, Lean on Pete) and Joe Bini (You Were Never Really Here). For our Best of 2017 round-up, we analysed the best editing of 2017. Documentary filmmakers have repeatedly told us about how crucial editing is to their process. We’ve compiled some of the best interviews with master documentarians in an eBook, Doc Masters: In Their Own Words Vol. 1, in which Frederick Wiseman, Gianfranco Rosi, Steve James, Penny Lane, and more discuss their differing approaches to editing.