And now, the award for best technician…

This evening the winners of the British Independent Film Awards were announced. Slumdog Millionaire and Hunger won three each.

For those in below the line positions, there was a catch-all award: that for Best Technical Achievement. The nominees were:
Wardrobe – Michael O’Connor – The Duchess
Cinematography – Sean Bobbitt – Hunger
Editing – Jon Gregory – In Bruges
Music – Harry Escott, Molly Nyman – Shifty
Cinematography – Anthony Dod Mantle – Slumdog Millionaire

The winner of Best Technical Achievement in British Independent Film is… Sean Bobbit, for Hunger.

Of course these people are just as artistic as actors, directors and writers. It is just that the film marketers haven’t come up with a way of describing what these contributors do in general that encompasses the thousands of creative decisions that go into each film. That is because it is convenient for the studios and media for the director of a film to represent all the non-writing and non-acting contributions to a film. It’s part of making it seem as if the director is the author of the film.

Editing is a special case when it comes to awards amongst all the ‘technical’ categories. How can anyone judge editing? Any ability more than competent is almost impossible to compare. As long as their editing isn’t obviously bad, how can you tell how good an editor is? Did they take perfect footage and make good scenes out of it, or did they rescue a film from disaster?

The only way to judge editing would for each film offering itself up for an award would make all the footage for a scene available to the judges. Then peers could judge which of the scenes was most effectively edited given all the footage at hand.

In practice the Oscar for Best Achievement in Editing is given to those editors hired to work on films that are in the running for Oscars, possibly not for the best editing of any film in a given year. But that Oscar is a good enough target for me!

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