MELBOURNE-BORN, Leibler Yavneh College grad Paul Machliss has worked as an editor on some of Britain’s most popular comedy TV series -— Black Books, Spaced and IT Crowd.
Now he is getting ready to crack the film industry with his first feature film project, Universal Studio’s Scott Pilgrim vs the World, currently in post-production and set for release next year.
“It’s incredible,” says London-based Machliss, 37, who has called the rainy city home for more than a decade. “It pushes you out of your safety zone.”
A comic-book adaptation, the film chronicles the plight of Scott Pilgrim, a jobless, garage band guitarist played by Michael Cera, from Juno and Superbad, who finds himself up against his new love’s seven evil ex-boyfriends.
Filmed in Toronto, Machliss had to leave his London digs and relocate for seven months when shooting was in progress. The experience, he says, was a far cry from working on a television series.
“In the 16 months I will be working on this film, I could have completed four television series,” exclaims Machliss.
“You have months and months to edit 100 minutes of screen time as opposed to television, where you are lucky to get 10 days to edit a half-hour. It’s probably the hardest job I’ve done.”
Machliss got his start at the bottom. His first gig was working as a runner at Channel 7 on a comedy sketch show called Fast Forward, where he spent much of his time “organising props and holding people’s drinks”.
But it was a good primer, he says. “I [learnt] about the technicalities of television production, but I always knew it was post-production I wanted to specialise in.”
Eventually, he got a job working at a post-production facility as a videotape librarian and operator. But in his downtime, he taught himself the tools of the editing suite.
It paid off. He got a job editing television advertising and corporate videos, and later his big break came with an offer to work freelance on a trade show in Amsterdam.
Once there, he landed a permanent gig as an editor, and eventually broke into editing comedy TV series, such as Black Books and Spaced.
“Having grown up on Monty Python, The Goodies and endless repeats of The Goon Show on ABC Radio, I was drawn to the intelligence, surrealism and word play of British comedy. Going to England was a bit of a fantasy.”
He adds: “I enjoyed the problem-solving that shows like those bring up — how to cut the show down to time and have it still make sense, the headaches, the long hours, the creative breakthrough you get at two o’clock in the morning.”
Intuition is the secret to editing, he says. “It’s weird, you just sort of ‘know’ when to cut to the next shot. I didn’t have any formal training. I guess all those years glued in front of the television was a ‘training’ of sorts.”
Machliss says he has got no plans to return to live in Australia anytime soon, and is just going to see where this latest run takes him.
“I would be very happy to carry on working in film if they would like to have me. But mainly I’m just happy to be doing something I enjoy. It feels more like play than work.”
Scott Pilgrim vs the World is due for release next July. Enquiries: www.scottpilgrimthemovie.com.