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‘Mattress Men’ and ‘Crash & Burn’ editor John Murphy on not “taking short cuts with real life”
27 May 2016 : Sean Brosnan
Murphy has edited ‘Mattress Men’ and ‘Crash and Burn’ which will both screen at Sheffield next month
It has been a hell of a year for Irish documentaries; Colm Quinn’s ‘Mattress Men’ and Seán Ó Cualáin's ‘Crash and Burn’ (both cut by Murphy) are both selected for the 2016 Sheffield Doc/Fest next month, with ‘Mattress Men’ screening last month to extremely positive reviews at Hot Docs in Toronto.

They are definitely not alone. Fastnet Films and Pieter-Jan De Pue’s ‘The Land of the Enlightened’ has been garnering raves since screening at Sundance earlier this year while Brendan J. Byrne’s ‘Bobby Sands: 66 Days’ is also intriguing audiences internationally. For Murphy, this boom of Irish feature documentaries comes as no surprise.

“We have always had a good standard of documentaries, particularly in television”, says Murphy, who also has extensive experience in drama and feature films with ‘Trial of the Century’ and ‘Standby’ among his most recent credits. “I think that talent has been nurtured on the small screen and is now graduating to the more longer-form documentaries you are seeing at festivals this year.”

While Murphy has a track record of editing in a wide variety of genres, he has made a name for himself with documentary, particularly in recent years, with the editor attributing this to the fact that there are a lot more documentaries to be cut in Ireland.

“I just think there is a lot more documentary work out there to be honest. Another factor that has been helpful for me is the fact that, while I'm not fluent, I work a lot through Irish”, continues the editor, who last year cut TG4’s IFTA-winning sports series ‘Arkle: The Legend Lives On’. “And that has given me the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects and the chance to develop working relationships with lots of different directors.”

Two of these working relationships has led the cutting room aficionado to his most recent documentaries, which are both set for the prestigious Sheffield Doc/Fest next month.

“They are two outstanding directors and I have been so fortunate to work with them on two very different but extremely engaging films”, says Murphy about Colm Quinn (‘Mattress Men’) and Seán Ó Cualáin (‘Crash & Burn’). “In the case of ‘Crash & Burn’, this is my fifth time working with Seán. While it is my first time working with Colm, he is someone whose work I have admired for years and who I was extremely keen to work with.”

The editor goes on to state that while the two disciplines inform each other and he loves editing drama, there can be something special about discovering the story in documentary.

“I just find them really interesting, learning about something completely new”, who edited the very intriguing multi-award winning short documentary ‘The Last Days of Peter Bergmann’ in 2014. “What is really exciting about documentary is that you are “finding the story” essentially. The story doesn’t exist until the director and editor kind of mould it together and that is a wonderful challenge. You are dealing with the lives of real people. You have to find the balance of telling the best story you can tell while also being fair to your contributors. You can’t take short cuts with real life. It all has to be true and real.”

While Murphy tells us that he is “honoured and humbled” to have two films he cut among the Sheffield line-up this year, he is quick to point out the Irish having a big presence at major festivals has become the standard.

“I think it has become the norm now for the Irish to have a big presence at these festivals, both in drama and documentaries. I think our horizons are bigger now. We feel like we belong in the big festivals like Telluride, Toronto, Sundance, Sheffield and Hot Docs.”

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