For a long time, Pip Karmel had been saying ‘no’ to
the job of editing Shine, preferring to concentrate on her career
as a director - trying to finance her own film, Me Myself I. She
says "it’s a comedy drama about a woman who thinks
she’s made all the wrong decisions about her life."
When the crunch came and Shine was ready to roll, Karmel’s
venture was not. She said yes.
She was in the middle of a course at the Australian Film
Television and Radio School when Scott Hicks called and offered
her the job of editing Sebastian and the Sparrow (1988),
Hick’s second feature film. (They had already worked
together once, she as assistant editor.) Karmel returned to the
school and concentrated on editing - "partly because
I’m perverse - I didn’t want to follow the crowd …
everybody wanted to direct."
Now, on the other hand, she is less certain about it. "I
want to direct mainly…but I’m a bit hesitant to say it
too strongly," she says on the eve of her wedding in Sydney
(to a Frenchman called Pierre - pictured - who is a gilder, and
makes reproduction antique mirrors), "I really only edit for
Scott. But I don’t know what I’ll do now…" -
meaning that now she is a much-awarded, Oscar nominated editor
with a high profile, she might be offered some tempting projects
- to edit.
Hicks calls her
‘Madame Lash’ - "because I’m ruthless
with the pictures,"
Shine - at least the enormous worldwide response to it - has
already changed her life. "Editors don’t get noticed
much," she says, "but now when I go to Los Angeles,
people are wanting to meet with me. It’s opened doors."
Shine, a title she always hated but could never replace with
anything else, gave her an opportunity to work closely with
Hicks, whose passion as a film maker she really appreciates.
"I love working with him," she says. And Scott Hicks
enjoys the collaboration, too, though he calls her ‘Madame
Lash’ - "because I’m ruthless with the
pictures," says Karmel. "You’ve got to be. We had
some tussles - over some shots that he was fond of … that
didn’t make it into the film."
Karmel is not a spontaneous person, and works thoughtfully,
yet instinctively: "We’re always talking about what our
tummies are telling us [with Scott Hicks]. We do everything to
[Remembers] with a gin
and tonic watching the sunset, thinking: "what I
want to do is make films."
The hardest thing in Shine was the music, she says.
"It’s always a challenge. The two big bits were the
concert and the breakdown scene in it, and the sequence where he
is learning with John Gielgud. It all had to be cut to the music
and it was a hard grind."
The most inventive part of the whole process, says Karmel, was
the title sequence, which was left till last, and differed from
the script. "Money was running out, and Scott and I went to
Melbourne for a day, cutting it together. We used bits and bobs,
really grasping at thing to try and make it work. But when it
does work, it’s very rewarding." That was unusual, in
that Karmel hates working with anyone - even Hicks - in the room.
To Karmel, editing is like sculpting, and the key is not so
much cutting the shots but having an overall fluidity to the
finished film. "I felt editing was one of the intelligent
aspects of film making," she says of her decision to study
it. Originally planning to be an artist, she spent five years
doing an arts degree before discovering - after tackling a minor
film course - that film is where she wanted to be.
She still remembers sitting on the sundeck of her
parents’ South Coast home in NSW at Christmas 1982, with a
gin and tonic watching the sunset, thinking: "what I want to
do is make films. It seemed such a dream."