Eddie Hamilton is a film director known for: Top Gun: Maverick (2022), Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018), X-Men: First Class (2011)

Obsession with film started at a young age for Eddie. He remembers begging to be taken to the cinema, listening to movie soundtracks on repeat, and reading any book about films that he could get his hands on. At Radley, Eddie benefitted from the investments that Max Horsey had made in new equipment, using them intensively, and becoming familiar with the rudiments of film editing. French don Charlie Barker’s Foreign Film Society was also influential, by introducing a wider scope of cinema.

“Max Horsey and Charlie Barker were instrumental in fostering my passion for technical and creative filmmaking.”

Eddie went on to University College London, where he studied Psychology, and joined the thriving student film society. Throughout his studies, Eddie was involved in student film and TV projects, and as soon as he finished his degree, he secured a job as a runner at a post-production facility in London.

“You go in at the bottom, and make tea, get everyone lunch, and you start to learn how to use the equipment in this professional environment. It’s so different to what you experience as a student filmmaker, where expertise is rare, and deadlines aren’t crucial.”

His first jobs in the industry as a runner allowed Eddie to become familiar with the pace of filmmaking, begin to navigate the politics of working with others creatively and, importantly, to make mistakes.

“You make a lot of mistakes when you’re starting out, which could be extraordinarily costly on a bigger budget film. It’s good to make plenty of mistakes earlier on, when the stakes and the budgets are smaller. That way, you learn, okay, I’m never gonna do that again.”

Gradually, Eddie worked his way up in the industry. At first, he paid for rent with a couple of days’ work per week editing 30-second promos for Paramount Comedy, so that he could spend the other five days working for free on small-budget movies to gain experience and widen his professional network. From the late 90s to 2010s, Eddie worked on around 40 productions, eventually landing editing roles on films like Kick-Ass (2010) and X-Men: First Class (2011).

The real breakthrough came when Eddie was called to edit Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015), a huge blockbuster from this popular series, with a budget of over $150 million. The commercial success of the film is evidenced by the subsequent titles, all of which Eddie has and is editing, Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) and Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (2023), with further instalments forthcoming. Eddie was also the editor on Tom Cruise’s recent film Top Gun: Maverick (2022).

What does film editing evolve?

Editing is the creative hub of any film. There are 200 – 300 people all working frantically to make the magic happen between ‘action’ and ‘cut’, in front of the camera. All that data then makes its way onto the editor’s laptop, and it’s all over to them! Productions start off a bit lumpy and baggy. Over time you keep working and working to refine it, until it’s ready to go to the sound team, the music team, the visual effects team, and the colour team for the final touches. It’s a creative process, but one that involves plenty of technology.

As the editor, you’re the single person responsible for everything that the audience sees and hears, from the very first opening credit all the way through to the end roller. Everything goes through your fingertips, for however long it takes to make the film. That’s nearly three years, in the case of the Mission: Impossible film I’ve been working on. This is why it’s the best job: you’re also the first person in the world to see the film come together, and watch the scenes start to come to life. It’s a huge privilege.

It sounds like an artist with a painting – how do you know when a film is finished?

It’s never really finished. You could keep working on it and improving it forever. However, films have a release date, and there will be, perhaps, 15,000 cinemas around the world all waiting to show this film. The publicity department may have spent millions of dollars on commercials, posters, publicity tours. So, you have to finish the film!

There’s also a process of showing the film at an early screening, and listening to what the audience says. If they tell you the film is confusing or too long, or boring, then you keep working at it until they stop telling you it’s too long or boring!

Do you have a team of editors, or is it only you?

On lower-budget films, it’s usually just a single editor for the whole production. On my current project, though, I have a team: two first assistant editors, two-second assistant editors, a trainee editor, a music editor, a visual effects editor, a visual effects assistant editor, and a post-production supervisor. 10 of us in total, and everyone has been working flat out for three years.

I’ve noticed that there are ‘fashions’ in film editing that change over time – such as fades, montages or dissolves. Have you noticed any editing fashions in recent years?

The thing that I’ve noticed is that the pace of movies is faster than it was in the 60s and 70s. Audiences today are more mature, and they seem to perceive, process, and understand visuals quicker. For example, in the original Top Gun, the opening montage with the jets taxiing on the deck of the aircraft carrier and taking off was about two and a half minutes. For the new film, Top Gun: Maverick, I originally did a montage that was almost exactly the same length, but test audiences said that it felt too long. So, I cut a minute out. The final version is about a minute and a half, but it has a lot more shots than the original, meaning that it’s a faster pace, more dynamic, and more exciting. I think this modern taste for faster pace in film and TV is a sign of the times. That’s not to jump on the bandwagon and say that “Gen-Z have short attention spans”, because they will sit and watch eight hours of a TV show in one go. I think people are just used to perceiving and processing information quicker.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to get into the industry?

There are some good online options: you can watch a lot of videos on YouTube about editing, because there are plenty of good ones. There is a great online course called Inside the Edit: www.insidetheedit.com/ where you can study at home, get one-to-one feedback, they also have free taster sessions. Try making a film: write a little one-page script, go out with your friends, shoot it on your phone, load it onto a laptop and try using some free editing software. The software I use, Avid Media Composer, offers a free version which you can download and work straight away. Use it to create something small, and upload it to YouTube. You’ll make loads of mistakes, but you’ll learn about filmmaking.

To do editing professionally, you’ll probably need to be based in a big city: London, Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff, somewhere where there’s plenty of film and television being made. The industry in the UK is booming: many big studios have been booked up for 15 years by big companies like Netflix and Disney. The list of productions being made in the UK is enormous: the DC movies, Star Wars, James Bond …

Aim to get a job in a post-production facility. Start from the bottom, making tea, working long days, and learning about the equipment. It’s like any job: it’s repetitive, but if you love it, it won’t matter. You’ll be an asset and move up fairly quickly if you are enthusiastic and willing to work hard. It takes a lot of sacrifice. You’ll miss friend’s birthday parties, and family gatherings, but you’ll make it eventually, and you’ll have found your passion. Filmmaking is the most wonderful, creative collaboration between people: people who are experts in fashion, hair, makeup, prosthetics, design, architecture, photography, sound, music, storytelling, engineering, electronics … all the creative industries come together to make films.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently on a five-year journey to make these two Mission: Impossible movies – Dead Reckoning Part One and Part Two. They’re two gigantic films for Paramount Pictures. They are very ambitious, very complicated, very exciting, action-packed movies, and they take a long time to make.

This interview was printed in the Old Radleian 2023. To read other interviews in this publication click below. 

 

Read the Old Radleian 2023