I have a strong connection with India – Humphrey Dixon
He started off as a film trainee at London’s first commercial TV channel. And then moved on to filmmaking and film editing. He has documentaries like ‘The South Bank Show’ and the feature length ‘Song Remains the Same’ based around the Madison Square Gardens concert of supergroup Led Zeppelin and feature films like James Ivory’s ‘Autobiography of a Princess’, ‘Hullabaloo over Georgie and Bonnie’s Pictures’ and ‘Heat and Dust’ to his credit. He also edited the multiple award-winning production ‘A Room With a View’ for which he was nominated for a BAFTA. Closer home he lent his editing expertise for Prashant Chadha’s ‘Aazaan’, one of Bollywood’s biggest budget movies. The man in question is Humphrey Dixon and we chanced upon him at the Film Bazaar.
You’ve transitioned from traditional film to film editing to digital. Tell us about this exciting journey.
Half the features films I have edited have been edited traditionally on film while the other half were done digitally. I was asked to make the switch in 1997 or so. And it was very hard at first. I needed an assistant with me who tutored me in the morning. And as soon as she left it would all go wrong. But I am not committed to it and I have adapted because we all have to. We are not going back to films after all. The big problem I face with digital is that everybody thinks it is instantaneous because it is, but the thought process gets kidnapped in the scheme of themes. In the old days we would sit and discuss the issues before proceeding unlike today. It is surely quicker today but the drawback of that is that everyone gets to command their own version. And since it is so easy now, the producer can understand it and it is as if he is always on our shoulders. But finally that’s just how it seems to be.
How was your experience with people from the Indian film industry?
Well, I had this wonderful opportunity to work with the legendary Satyajit Ray. This was when I was working on James Ivory’s ‘Autobiography of a Princess’. It was a chance encounter and his editor was ill and he just borrowed my skills for a day. I also worked with Prashant Chadha for Azaan.
What is your opinion of Indian films?
I certainly enjoy the music, song and dance in a film. For the western world they will be tagged as musicals and it may be odd for them to accept it. But I personally love it and also feel that Indian films can do better with time as India is now opening up greatly. I also suggested that Indian films be made in two versions, one for the world audience without an interval and lesser songs. But again that is what I feel.
What did you think of IFFI this year?
Honestly, I have not seen a lot of the films yet. But I did attend a few of the workshops and they were very interesting. It looks very promising and it seems likes there’s a lot of fresh talent here. I have a strong connection with India. Even in my younger days I visited India and I have worked with some of the finest producers and directors some of Indian origin. So my connection with people in the film industry of India have been very close.
What message would you like to give to the budding Indian editors?
I also teach at the National School of Film and TV at London and I really think it is very hard for the students these days ever since it has gone digital. A lot of things get done without the old systems, which I think is a real shame as they miss out on a lot. I think training editors is getting harder and harder although the business is growing.