Before Samson & Delilah was confirmed as the brightest star of the 2009 AFI Awards, directors Warwick Thornton (Samson & Delilah), Robert Connolly (Balibo) and Rachel Ward (Beautiful Kate) discussed their films at the annual ADG (Australian Directors Guild) / AFI Meet the Directors session.
Had you asked anyone in the audience who their bet was for the award of 2009 AFI Award Best Director they weren't telling. This was the calm between the accolades; the night before, at the AFI Industry Awards, Thornton had taken out the AFI Award for best cinematography, Samson & Delilah had won the AFI members choice award and the award for best sound, and team-Connolly had registered its first win: Nick Meyers ASE had won the AFI Award for Best Editing for his work on Balibo in what was a 26-week edit.
On the subject of editing, Thornton said the start of the edit period was a time to “go fishing” for three or four weeks: “Roland (Gallois) needs that time to find the film for himself. He needs to find his voice, his timing,” Thornton explained. “It's better to stay away from there and come in fresh and emotional. My way of editing is to come in for an hour in the morning. Editors are such unique creatures — worth their weight in gold.”
Similarly, Connolly said he spent “far less time in the edit suite than I used to. It's partly because I've worked with the same editor in all my films and my trust in his work is so profound.” The director shot a “50-something-to-one ratio” on Balibo and says “the adventure of exploring that material with three separate time lines intersecting was something we struggled with.” Up until a week before he locked off the picture-cut, Connolly had “profound doubts about whether we managed to edit it” but says that “if I was to look at the film and to think of the person that I would value as having the most profound creative impact on the film it would be Nick.”
For Ward, filmmaking “is about precise expressions of your sensibility, particularly in the edit suite.” To her, “every moment is making choices. Your editor is not the same person as you – and I learned to try and be open to what they were presenting, to understand where their sensibility was coming from.
“As a director, you can overrule the editor but you have to be very careful that you don't overrule to your detriment! I was blessed with a fabulous editor [Veronika Jenet] but we fought tooth and nail about almost everything.”