Australian artiste cutting it fine

Notes: A reputed film editor from Australia, Jill Bilcock weighs in on women in the sphere of film-editing and her long-standing relation with India

Jill Bilcock of Australia has worked in some of the best-known films like Baz Luhrmann’s Red Carpet Trilogy — Strictly Ballroom, Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge! — Sam Mendes’s Road to Perdition, and Shekhar Kapur’s award-winning Elizabeth. She is also the subject of the documentary Jill Bilcock: Dancing the Invisible. In 2001, she was awarded the Australian Centenary Medal for her services to Australian society and film production.

Excerpts from an interview:

You visited India first when you were quite young and subsequently many more times...

Oh yes, I came alone in the 70s on the way to London on a shoe-string budget. I made a stop-over in India for two weeks. From  Delhi, I decided to go to Kashmir on an impulse. People were very kind and helpful. I went around Pahalgam, Gulmarg etc without any problem. I went to Mumbai and stayed in a hotel near the Gateway of India.  I enjoy coming back here.

You have worked with Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Moulin Rouge!’, for which you were nominated for the Oscars. Critics find a lot of Bollywood in this film...

It’s opulent, it’s full of emotion and dramatics, many of the qualities you find in Bollywood films. Perhaps that’s why.

What about Shekhar Kapur’s long-announced ‘Paani’, in which you were to work with him.

I don’t know anything about it presently, or whether it will ever be made.

Do you feel that women have a special affinity to film-editing?

I think so. Women are good at multi-tasking

Why did you choose film-editing when it was not very common for women to take up this profession at that time?

Actually, I did not take it up consciously. My mother was an English teacher, we lived in Melbourne and there was a fair amount of freedom at home to do what we children liked. After studying art in an institution, I got an opportunity to do a course on filmmaking. We pretty much dabbled in everything. Later, I found I liked editing and specialised in it.

Why do you think there are fewer women in film-editing?

It’s a demanding job. Women, like in many other fields which demand a lot of time and attention, find it difficult to cope with family and job. However, today there are many talented women film-editors who are getting due recognition.

Do you feel that women have a special affinity to film-editing?

I think so. Women are good at multi-tasking. They manage homes, look after kids, and take up professional work. Film-editing is also about multi-tasking. You have to know the different aspects of the film right from the storyline, dialogue, music, and sound. Though the latter is taken care of by the sound editor, as an editor, you have to be familiar with it, too. I also get involved a lot in post-production work.

You have worked in a variety of film genres. How do you approach each assignment?

I sit quietly for at least two weeks to ease myself into the story. I try to find the emotion at the core. If it’s a female director, I try to imagine how she would conceive it, how I can bring out the essence of her thought. The same with a male director. For, perceptions change depending on who the director is.


Jill's work on 'Moulin Rouge!' earned her an Oscar nomination

While editing, do you always stick to your decision? Suppose the director doesn’t agree?

Well, I do what I think is the best, but if the director doesn’t agree, I listen, I don’t fight, and examine why he/she is disagreeing with my view. Perhaps through the discussion the director also gets my view. In a collaborative work like filmmaking, it’s no use being at loggerheads.

Are you still as involved with the editing process? After all, you have spent decades in the profession...

I am more into supervising these days. I let someone do the editing, but advise and take an overall look. Film-editing is a very stressful work. It drains you out, though the work is enjoyable. At my age (70), I want to take it easy.

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Australian artiste cutting it fine

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