On editing actors

I had an interesting experience last week, when we were getting some actors (from the sketch show I'm currently editing as a NFTS TV student's graduation piece) to do some additional voicework to help ease transitions/ smooth over some cuts we've had to make to the sketches.

As we were running late, I had to go to pick up one of the actors from reception whilst another was finishing up in the recording booth. I saw him, went over, said his name.... and then realised that there was absolutely no reason in the world why he'd know who I was. I may have been editing material with him in it for the past month, but he's never seen me before in his life.

I'd read about this aspect of editing before in books, but had always assumed it to be along the lines of seeing a well-known TV or film personality walking down the street. We may watch them weekly on television, but we never think that we know them.

Except from a certain aspect, we do know the people who we've edited. We've actively studied their physical and facial reactions on several different takes in an attempt to judge one the 'best' or 'most apt' for the surrounding scene and performances. We've berated them (sometimes loudly in the direction of the computer monitor without acknowledgement of the futility of such an action) for an utter lack of consideration to continuity between different slates. We've interpreted their intentions and characterisations - and when hard decisions have been made on the subjects we've made them with the actor because of what they've given us to work with. We've made cuts and decisions alongside their performance - to enhance one character trait whilst diminishing another, to engage the audience as if they were there in the room when the scene was being filmed (or even within the mindset and context of the drama they're watching, as appropriate).

It just seems a little harsh at times, when part of the job description involves getting involved to some extent in the emotional journey of the characters that you've been watching on screen for weeks or even months. The lack of acknowledgement can sometimes feel total. They'll likely never know just how much we study them and feel that we know them and/or their character. But it's probably for the best. A self-conscious actor is usually the last thing you want when they're doing their close-ups, and so long as the finished product looks great then everyone's done their job well.