Mick Mahon

“Mick Mahon has been IFTA-nominated six times, and has edited a host of award winning projects. His work includes The Writing in the Sky (2011), Saving The Titanic (2012) John Sheahan: A Dubliner (2013) & Rough Rider ( 2013). He has recently completed the feature documentary, The Queen of Ireland.”

This year he is nominated for his work on “After Braveheart” and “Rough Rider”.

We profiled Mick’s career when he talked at one of our in conversation events in 2013, you can read that and watch some of his work here

What made you want to get into Editing?

I stumbled in editing, I didn’t have a clear direction at first. I studied film in IADT, or Dun Laoghaire College of Art & Design as it was know then. Camera and lighting was my specialised area, but we had a great editing tutor, Anne O’Leary, and watching her cut on the Steenbeck was mesmerising. I began to see the magic in what editors do and decided to try it. I stopped dabbling in other areas and decided that editing suited my temperament and sensibilities. I also identified it as a stepping stone to directing, but the more immersed in editing I became, the less I felt a need to explore directing.

What was your first professional job and what led you to where you are today?

My first job was as a trainee assistant for Sé Merry Doyle in Loopline. It was there I met Emer Reynolds who played a big part in showing me the ropes. I then worked on a feature film that was being edited by Jon Gregory, Mike Leigh’s editor. Talking to Jon about his work was inspiring. After a few years as an assistant on features, and eventually started cutting training videos, the occasional short, music videos. My break in documentaries came from Liam McGrath. He trusted me with a longer form job at a time I was beginning to think I’d never get started. Liam also hired me for Naked Camera, which was just great fun. Then Maurice Sweeney hired me to edit his Flann O’Brien and Micheal o Muircheartaigh films. They were game changers. They both won IFTA’s and I suddenly was in demand. I haven’t stopped working since.

What have you found to be the best training for Post production?

Working alongside other editors. Watching other peoples work. I think having a general interest in the arts is a great help. A knowledge of music has helped me a lot with rhythm and pacing.

With technology in Post moving so quickly, How do you keep up to date with the newest and latest trends?

I’m a bit of a luddite. I trained on Steenbeck, and loved it. I find it hard to get excited by technology. I see it as a tool, and so long as it works I’m happy. Obviously I update software as I need to, but I’m not a techie.

5. Where do you look for inspiration and how do you stimulate your creativity when you feel blocked?

I find deadlines a great antidote to creative blocks! There are so many decisions to be made on a daily basis, I try not to get stuck in the glue. I’m always inspired by other people’s work.

What do you love most about your job ?

I love the variety that comes with editing documentaries. For the duration of the edit, you become an expert in the subject, it’s very immersive. Every job has fresh challenges and I get a real kick from that. Collaborating with new directors, and returning to work with old ones. The satisfaction in knowing you’ve done a good job, and in some way touching people through stories. My latest doc The Queen of Ireland looks like being one of those special ones.

How do you, or have you been able to, create a work/life balance?

Always a challenge! It was worse when I was starting out, ridiculous hours, all night edits to meet deadlines etc. The older I get, the less tolerant I am of that. I prefer to start early and finish at a reasonable time. After 10/12 hours, it’s really difficult to continue doing good work. It’s important to get exercise, fresh air, eat well. It’s a sedentary lifestyle and you need to look after yourself.

A lot of editors say that hard work and building relationships has been the key to their success, do you feel this has been the case in your own career?

Absolutely. I have long standing relationships with several filmmakers. I love developing a body of work with a director, as I have with Maurice Sweeney. There is no escaping hard work!

What are your plans / goals for the future?

I want to continue doing what I do. I’m very lucky to do this work. I have my own studio, it’s a home from home and people seem happy to come to my place to work. I’m dipping my toe into the drama world and would love to edit a contemporary drama. I want to continue to foster the relationships I have, and to connect with new, younger filmmakers, step out of the comfort zone where possible. I have a couple of interesting things slated for next year, so all good.

What advice would you give someone trying to get into Editing?

Start editing. The tools are so accessible now, anyone can edit. Cut whatever you can. Watch as much as you can. Talk to other editors. Try and get a foot in the door in a post facility, learn what they do. Sample every aspect of post-production. Keep plugging away. It sounds a cliche to say “don’t give up”, but it’s true. Leave your ego outside the door. Great bit of wisdom from a producer friend, at a time when I couldn’t get a job, he said “just remember your job is to
make other people look good. If you do that, they’ll hire you again!”

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