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Pip Karmel nearly said no to editing Shine, which won her an AFI award and an Oscar nomination; she has won several other awards and is poised to make her own first feature film.
Andrew L. Urban talks to another of our Whizzards of Oz.

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 please ourselves."

[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."

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1996 Editor

The Ultimate Athlete


Director: Scott Hicks


1995 Editor


Feature Film

Director: Scott Hicks

Awards: Bets Editor -AFI Awards; Nominee - Best Editor - American Society of Cinema Editors; Nominee Best Editor - Oscars



Anti Harassment video, Dept Community Services & Health

Awards: Best Direction - New York Festival for International Non-Broadcast Media


1994 Director

English at Work - various episodes (SBS TV)

1993 Director

‘Long Ride’

Under the Skin tv series

Awards: Best Telefature, AFI Awards; Certificate of Merit - Golden Gate Awards, San Fransisco Film Festival


1991 Writer/Director

Fantastic Futures (16 mm short drama)

Awards: Gold Mobie; Instructional/Training - Atom Awards; Gold Award - International ITVA, Munich; Gold Award - Careers Guidance Category, New York Film Festival


1989 Writer/Director

Hit and Miss

Award: Graduate Filmmaker Award, Film Australia



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