"We all had a sense we were making something special" Anna and the Apocalypse editor Mark Hermida
Best known for his work on comedy TV series Cuckoo and crime series Endeavour, editor Mark Hermida talks to Mandy News about his experience editing the hit film Anna and the Apocalypse.
How did you get into editing?
I didn't study film at all, my degree was in political theory and when I graduated in Birmingham, I saw a job in a newspaper for a runner at ITV studios. I worked there for four years as an operator and eventually on live broadcasts, but was starting to get the sense that editing was something I might be interested in, so when I was made redundant, I pushed to get some casual shifts as a digitiser across the road at the BBC so that I could spend some more time around the edit suites.
After that, I got my first edit assistant job at a sports production company which brought me to London where I was cutting Champions League highlights packages and that kind of thing. Then a job came up as edit assistant on The Bill which I got, and where I spent four years really learning a lot of what I now know about both editing and the workings of a big, fast moving production. I was given the opportunity whilst there to cut six episodes, initially under supervision from another editor and then in the normal way. When The Bill shut down after four years, I took my redundancy money, went travelling for six months, came back and said "Right, I guess I'm a freelance editor now." That was seven years ago.
How did you get involved with Anna and the Apocalypse?
I cut a few episodes of a show called Waterloo Road which was initially shot in Manchester and then moved production to Glasgow. I cut the first block in Glasgow and became friends with both the post-production supervisor David Frew and my assistant at the time Ross McCrae - both of whom are now in senior positions at Anna's production company Blazing Griffin. David is an amazing guy and one of his strengths is bringing people together for projects and making them greater than the sum of their parts.
We'd stayed in touch since I'd cut Waterloo Road in 2012 and had told me that he was keen to get me involved in various projects. When the three arms of Blazing Griffin coalesced into a whole, he thought of me as the right person to cut Anna and the Apocalypse. I read the script which had be laughing out loud on my couch. It was so irreverent, sweet, funny and gruesome, sometimes all at the same time and I just got this tingling feeling that I HAVE to get this job.
I did a Skype interview with John McPhail the director and Nic Crum the producer and John and I bonded immediately over a love of Predator. I felt like it had gone really well but had quite a long nervous wait to get the OK, as this would have been my first film and all the powers that be had to be convinced that I was up to it.
What was the process of working on the film and what editing equipment did you use?
I worked on Avid Media Composer, which has been the case for every film or television job I've ever done. I've used Premiere here and there for corporate stuff, but I'm totally at home with Avid. The process was amazing. I could gush on and on about how creatively rewarding an experience it was for me and what amazing friends I've made through making it.
The guys at Blazing Griffin, Naysun Alae-Carew, Nic Crum, Charlotte Walsh and David Frew foster the most nurturing and open, whilst at the same time hardworking environment, and John, the director does the same in the cutting room. What was so special about working on Anna and the Apocalypse, was the trust that I felt from everyone involved. It was a truly collaborative environment where everyone felt free and confident to voice their opinion, even outside of their own particular specialism and when you allow that kind of open dialogue and you place your trust in people that way, it's extremely motivating.
The process of getting it right was sometimes tricky - balancing so many different elements: musical, horror, and comedy, teen film is a delicate and time consuming thing, but it was never anything less than a pleasure to come to work every day.
Did you know the film was going to be so well received when you were working on it?
No, absolutely not, but we all had a sense that we were making something special. It felt like that to us. Like I said above, when I read Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry's script, I knew I had to get this job and as John's rushes came in and I started to see the performances from our utterly brilliant cast and hear Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly's songs, that feeling only got stronger.
We all cared so deeply about it, getting it right and as I say, the closer we got to the end, we felt sure that we had made something that we were really, really proud of - but it wasn't until it debuted at Fantastic Fest last year and people started going nuts for it that we were like, whoa, ok, something's happening here.
It's just so brilliant that people seem to love watching it as much as we loved making it.
What is next for you?
Since Anna and the Apocalypse I've been working on various TV shows. I just finished Endeavour for ITV1 and I am now on a gritty drama for the BBC called The Left Behind. It's hard to know what's next - as an editor you have a certain amount of agency and you can push and push, but to a certain extent you are reliant on a director or producer to see your work and give you a call.
Whatever's next, I love my job. For me it's the perfect balance of creativity and technical skill and every day brings a different challenge.
What advice do you have for up and coming Editors?
The number one thing I would advise up and coming editors would be is to be nice. Obviously it's important to do your job well, but I think that one of the major things people remember about you is whether you enriched their day in some way.
Trust your own ideas and present them in a constructive way and don't take it personally if those ideas are shot down. Always, always be kind to runners and assistants. They are the workhorses of the industry and bust a gut in the background for not much thanks, but without them, our lives as editors would be a lot harder.
From a purely editing perspective, know your rushes. Really, really know them so you can speak with confidence about what is and isn't achievable and the reasons why.
If people see that you know your stuff, they will put trust in you.