Howard Lanning

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20 Jun 2016
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Howard Lanning

Tape operator  0:06  
Yeah, I think that's good. That's good.

Derek Threadgall  0:07  
Okay. The copyright of this recording is vested in the British entertainment history project.

Okay, good thing. Today is Monday 20th of June 2016. The interviewee is Howard Lanning, president of the British cinema and television veterans, the interviewer is Derek Threadgall. And the camera man, Steve booksmith. Look good so far. Okay. And we were put in here is three times started 3pm. Okay. Okay, right. So now we'll go to you Howard where we, where we start again, Howard will, will give an intro to himself, introduce yourself.

Howard Lanning  1:14  
My name is Howard Lanning. I was born in 1932, in the East End of London, and I've been in the film industry as a Film and Sound Editor for more than 50 years.

Derek Threadgall  1:35  
Then we get into the meat of it.

Unknown Speaker  1:38  
Now I've got the sound a little bit wrong there. So not be a nice idea. Let's do it. One more

Howard Lanning  1:43  
time, no problem.

Unknown Speaker  1:46  
In fact, cut the cat in your own time.

Howard Lanning  1:53  
My name is Howard Lan ning. I was born in 1932. In the East End of London, I've been in the film industry for over 50 years as a Film and Sound Editor. perfectly

Unknown Speaker  2:11  
happy with what we've done just as we go along. But that's

Derek Threadgall  2:15  
right. Okay, well, we'll go straight forward. Can you tell us a bit about your your family background? What were your parents involved in the film industry at any time?

Howard Lanning  2:30  
Very much. So my mom, my father was came in, in industry in 1925. At the end of the silent era, he was a he was a grip. And he was also a property man. And he had four sons. I was one of them. And we were all involved in in the film industry. He the eldest one was Jerry. He was a film editor, director, producer. With good credits like Out of Africa, Gorillas in the Mist, you know, films that we know about. I came next. Also a film and found editing and editing Boris Karloff's  last film. I was also the sound editor on Alec Guinness's last  film. Now I'm not a bad omen. I just happen to be old at the time. And Peter Cushing wrote his autobiography. The worst film I ever appeared in was the Blood beast terror. And I edited that one. And also did the first few years of candid camera in UK and more than 40 hours of drama with Linda will struggle with name can we cut that camera, okay. And I also did 40 hours of drama for Linda, la Plant. Next came my brother Dennis five years my junior, also a Film and Sound Editor and the youngest of the purveyors of food Steve. Production Manager assistant director worked on The Omen, Bridge too far. Gandhi and me come to next generation of Lannings to deal with Cliff Clifford, who's the Assistant Director working in mainly in Hollywood on a lot of black blockbusters. movies are not my kind of movie, but the youngsters go for them. Then there's Jake who has his own production company. And And finally, Ben also an assistant director who often works with Cliff. So it's which just prove the saying that nepotism works if you keep it in the family

Derek Threadgall  5:29  
Okay, can we go back a bit further now to your schooling? Where did you go to school when you were in your teens or where do you start?

Howard Lanning  5:45  
I my schooling started in Hackney went to a primary school and secondary modern, I took a a technical scholarship and ended up in Shoreditch, Teck, it was actually nothing to do with films, it was

furniture and cabinet making. It was one of my cause  I remember one of my first big disappointments, I took the the examination, the test papers at Shoreditch tech, Technical College, beautiful building, architecturally and I thought, I would love to go to school here. I got through and then we were assembled on the first day, actual ditch tech. And then they said now we're now going to take you to the your school, which turned out to be a very old trying school with low ceilings, and I was shattered. absolutely shattered.

Derek Threadgall  7:02  
And so, did you go into into further education at all?

Howard Lanning  7:10  
Not really, I went finished the the three years course. And then I actually when I was quite young, I started on my own, you know, who was doing repair's putting up shelving and do it yourself. I was quite good. Doing the work wasn't a very good salesman of the old batted down by the wives who thought that, you know, you, you know, you really charged me that much for putting up that shelf. But it was fun. And I did that for a number of years. And coinciding with that i i worked backstage in theatre. He was doing like props and that kind of thing, which I found interesting,

Derek Threadgall  8:07  
which there's a theatres where you working in which theatres where you work.

Howard Lanning  8:16  
Most of them, I work from the mean, the first one would be Art Theatre, tiny, little theatre. It was like a one stage set. You know, it was all the onestage set there. And I went from there to the Drury Lane, which was absolutely massive. And that was for South Pacific, you know, which was a good show. Great show really, and and that was interesting. Also did Covent Garden, the Palladium, with Norman Wisdom. So it was interesting that most of the staff working in the theatre for the shows were Covent Garden, market people, cos the  hours, kind of work for them early in the morning, and they do an afternoon show or an evening show. But it was interesting.

Derek Threadgall  9:21  
So had a pretty good grounding already then, in the work you were doing in the theatre, or theatres. And so when did you first of all decide that you wanted to go into the film industry?

Howard Lanning  9:37  
Well, considering that my father was always involved, and I was often visiting studios, and which I found exciting, I'm obviously very slow because I had no real interest in the film industry. Even though I kind of I grew up with it. And then my 1955 and was beginning of commercial television. Brother Jerry was editing, and he was overwhelmed with work. And he said, and I was on a holiday break. Can you come in and help me for just a couple of weeks? Because there are no all the assistant editors, became editors, and there were no assistants. So I, I helped him out for a couple of weeks, it lasted, 20 years. And we had our own editing company and production company. So I, I was kind of 18 then. And it was, I loved it. You know? Why did I leave it so late? Which could have been like three years, you know?

Derek Threadgall  11:10  
So you went to where we you'd gone in with Jerry was the Jerry. Yeah. Started he went, yeah. Okay. Okay. And he liked it. He was supposed to be there two weeks. And you stayed for twenty years? Yeah. And that was as I was saying, he really went in headfirst. Yeah, straightaway. So if you had one would call it formal training.

Howard Lanning  11:42  
Are we running? Anything I questioned up to forgot stuff for is. How did you get on? You know, did you make any mistakes with something being thrown into it? And it's a couple of things I can say. Yeah, so I was thrown in at the deep end. And commercials were very high powered fast, you know, very fast. And I remember there was one kind of showing, we had screening. And the producers asked for something that was left in the cutting room. So I dashed back, I remember dashing back and the and the roll films and down so I had to rewind it. And working at speed and inexperience and had this roll of film and the centre fell out of it. And being as experienced as I was, I pulled it out from the centre and kind of tried to do it and it was a nightmare and I was having phone calls from the theatre. How are we going to be shan't be long shan't be long. But it was certainly an introduction to the two cutting rooms.

Derek Threadgall  13:23  
We've all been down that route, I think in some way or another. There were things going wrong. So what would you say are the main areas of work that you've done?

Howard Lanning  13:40  
Well, in the beginning, it was it was like documentaries, or sponsored films commercials. And then I was given my first big break with Candid Camera that actually came by the Samuelson organisation because they were handling all the sound in the camera and and I did it for about three years. The first series in a UK based Teddington lovely studio with the water flying by really nice. So that was my first

real interest and did lots of commercial and documentaries before I got involved in the features. Features are

Derek Threadgall  14:52  
also the first feature then that you've got involved with.

Howard Lanning  14:55  
Well the first feature tthat I edited although I want to really go back a bit because an assistant for for a couple of years worked on several television series The The Invisible Man which was not very well done really was when I looked at an invisible man feature film to be made 20 years earlier with what I thought was high technology. And here we were 20 years later doing something and it was kind of math you know, we had things floating around on thin wires and it really was you know, kind of very basic had drawers popping out next someone behind pushing it or you know, you really was so I did that. And I did the the OSS, which was a lot of fun. And I was involved with looking after the library, securing stock shots for things, they could not shoot dogfights, sbatles and all this kind of thing. And I remember I had a request for like a street scene. Belgium or similar country, and they and they wanted a cobbled street and the starting rooftops and, and panning down to the street level. Not an easy request to find it in library and I found this shot. And we, but it was the wrong. Action started down below went up to the roof. But the shot worked. And I reversed the action and put a caption over Antwerp 1942. And I was delighted with it. And then during the dubbing we were, we were we were running it and in the distance there was a little puff of smok went down. And he said oh, we'll see this smoke going down the chimney. And really very cos. He's seen it three or four times because I mean that the the first thing you look at is Antwerp 1942. But which time the puff of smoke was gone. That it was but it was

Derek Threadgall  17:56  

Howard Lanning  18:00  
you, you actually asked me what was my fist feature film war. That was the blood beast terror. And that starred Peter Cushing. And I'm very unfortunate, being my very first editing assignment in assignment that it hadn't been well worked out in terms of the running time and the scenes in the story. And when I put it all together, it only lasted about seven to eight minutes. That's with everything in and hadn't really been fine edited. And didn't properley film that it wssn't long enough. So the so they had to devise a couple of new scenes just to pad it out. And one of the scenes involved Roy Hudd who had several lines, but which would only lasted about 20 seconds, but he was asked to kind of pad it out and do business for four or five minutes. And he was fantastic. The problem was that Peter Cushing who was looking at this dead body and trying to be serious and didn't know what was coming from Roy Hudd and he couldn't stop laughing. So fortunately, we had a close up of Roy whennever Peter Cushing started to lose it. Then we cut to Royr who just carried on and it was See if fantastic. And then they did a nother sequence that was supposed to be the Amazon. And we had two natives, you know, paddling up the Amazon and then going into the jungle. And we shot that at Richmond. And, you know, it, put some cutaways of parrots and we had a jungle atmosphere and, and it worked. And the film was finished. And it was, it was a bad film. You know, I mean, he just but it was finished, and it made it money. Afterwards, I did some number of other features. The one that I'm most proud of the Witchfinder General, which, which really worked out well. But unfortunately, the director did not live too long after the you know, the finishing the film, which was very successful.

Derek Threadgall  21:10  
That was Vincent Price and his prime, wasn't it?

Howard Lanning  21:14  
Yeah. Oh, yeah. He was really Mike Read the director, got a HE WILL performance from Vincent Price who was known for his camp. You know, he really kept everything up and thatMike read was on him and it and he was superb, sinister and frightening. And he was really very good.

Derek Threadgall  21:45  
What so you mentioned he mentioned Boris Karloff. You're young with

Howard Lanning  21:55  
Boris Karloff sctrred in The Curse of the crimson oltar And lovely lovely man, but very ill. I mean, he was very fragile. And

he I don't think we did his health any favours because we were filming in February night scenes and but he never complained. He just did a job had a beautiful voice. I mean, voice was just beautiful. But he was he was very frail, really very, very frail. And he, he did the whole film in a wheelchair fine. It worked for the story and he was a professor, which was fine. And the script called for him to shoot Christopher Lee and disable you can do it from the wheelchair. Got a problem? And Karloff, how can I kill a man sitting in a wheelchair? I want to stand up and so they kind of set him against this door jamb and head to gun but he couldn't actually get the gun horizontally enough to to actually shoot you know, you just shot him in the foot. So we had to shoot that scene shooting in with the dubbing but he was a delightful man. And he unfortunately he died about six months afterwards. So that was his last feature film.

Derek Threadgall  23:58  
Was there anybody? I mean, you've done an awful lot of films. And you must have come across in addition to people like Vincent Price and Boris going he must have come across a lot of other stars actors in the films that you are editing whether any, any, any one of them standing out from your point of view as

Howard Lanning  24:27  
a very expensive and very poor film was absolute beginners. And but the the performance of David Bowie just kind of exploded. I mean, he was very charismatic. And for me he actually carried the the film and

I was just doing Sound Effects on there but the but the film was dominated by the music which was so you know and one was actually heard to say at the dubbing theatres that could you take the dialogue down because I can't hear the music which I thought was an actual fact to the the effects boys the dialogue boys you know all did a good job but none of it was heard because the music was just an even with my sound effects you know when I was doing the footsteps the during the editing and processes the opening shot was shooting down on a pavement and and somebody jumps in at the feet jumps in and it was like that and and that could be shot silent was a mute shot so I knew that I was going to you know start the film with my pair of feet landing on the on the pavement so you know I said whatever they take out I'm going to get going to get my feet and then about a couple of weeks before they actually approved the fine cut they put in a new scene in front of my couple of feet and and it had somebody sliding down a Bannister and with a with a big you know crescendo music and slide down and when he hits the pavement the music goes ignored never heard the feet turn I did do arrange the a footstep session we gave you Bowie on a on a large typewriter and he was terrific. We gave him a few extra Fred Astaire steps and he had the style you know I mean you really know when you look good Defence of the Realm they find movie that somehow just got better the longer I worked on it he just and he was really very good

Derek Threadgall  27:51  
What about female actresses female stars they came across quite a few of those I suppose.

Howard Lanning  27:58  
Yeah. Yeah. Alec Guinness delightful man absolutely delightful man Peter Cushing was with fine Roy Hudd was funny and I was with Roy Hudd we had years later on a television series and he remembered the bees terror but on the series there actually there were five Lannings working on the series and he said there are more Lannings here than you are lemmings in a pit he was delightful man

Derek Threadgall  28:45  
What about actresses

Howard Lanning  28:47  
actresses have to think about actresses you know that made an impression Lauren Bacall was interesting lady very independent lady that was on a a Foreign Field is quite good. But somehow the men or made more often impression on me.

Derek Threadgall  29:32  
But as you're editing a film do you do feel that as you're editing it putting it together slowly? And as as you're doing that? Do you finally you get more into the film? Or do you understand more about the film itself as a whole?

Howard Lanning  29:53  
Yeah. The mean I've been very very fortunate. In I've, I've had a job that I've really loved. You know, people have jobs, they go in at nine o'clock finish and five and look to clock in a dozen times during the day. And I never had that in the film industry, it was really, it's always exciting to go into work. And even if the film was not a good film, from an editor who gave it your best shot, made it good issue could do. And you know, obviously the, the, the, as you get into film, because it's not being shot in, in continuity. So it's only when you know, it all starts to go together, and you do the voiceovers and everything. Yeah. And very interesting. With seeing with the Lynda la Plante, the first thing that we did with her was The Governor about a female in charge of a main category C prison  very tough, very tough. And the the very first scene was a, a prison warder, walking down the corridor, and looking in the cells, you know, it was it was shot silent. And I was asked to post production supervisor in those days. And I went to her house and we ran the video. And she was going to write the some new dialogue and voiceovers fine. Okay. So we're, we're running the film and we start with this shot of the prison guard looking in the cells. And, and Linda is mumbling away. And and then she said, Did you get that? Howard terribly sorry, I am. You know, what was that? She said it. it louder. And I wrote it all down. And the so, first voice, Charlie, did your wife come and visit you today? Second voice did she hell, I would give her never when I fear and then a third voice. And then a fourth voice of why don't you lot give it a rest. You know, there was nothing happening on the screen. All you had is this Guard walking down looking in the cells. And the whole thing came alive. Now I was just bowled over left to my own devices, I would have put a murmur track you know, been a mumble jumble. But she created dialogue and suddenly you're interested in Charlie and his wife and very very clever writing very, very clever writing, you know, brain never stop working. But then you can't always know when you start a film, you know, might read well, but then some of the artists may not be as good as they should be in the scene falls flat and certainly the right artists in the right part then the whole scene just just takes off. You know?

Derek Threadgall  34:13  
How did you get on with other candidates? Yeah, eloquent is you say that was Alec Guinness his last film that you were working on with him? Can you remember what that film was?

Howard Lanning  34:28  
A Foreign Field and I'm not sure if you could I won a nomination for for the film. It was absolutely delightful film and my wife's favourite of everything. I mean, she's hated not hate is too strong a word but she is I Foreign Field was just it was interesting. thing that the it was written by Roy Clark, who's a well known TV writer and he wrote it for Alec Guiness read the script. And there was another part in in the in the script that a shell shocked war veteran they only had two lines to say in the whole film. And he said I would like to play that part. It wasn't written for him that he liked fi that part. And Leo can play that part very well. But it was there was just a beautiful story had Geraldine  Chaplin and Lauren Bacall and the and the French actress Michelle co remember the name but it was a terrific story, it was about the three guys go back to Normandy 50 years after the D Day. And two of them was soldiers. And they were kind of wounded and nurse by by this beautiful nurse who also gave them other treats. And they they came back to Normandy, to to go to the battlefields and pay their respects but also to see if they can find this nurse who would have been about 75 And you know, the way the film unfolds, they suddenly realise that these dis American and English soldiers were going back looking for this for the same thing and they still had a photograph of this nurse as she was at 20. And then they so they're in some kind of battle you know, and and eventually find her and of course, she's a 75 year old and it was just a magic moment. Here wecare they are chasing for this this lady and then they say, Oh my God, you have but it was beautiful scoring beautiful

Derek Threadgall  37:55  
there was anyone else that you've worked with a year you'd like to to bring to the fore so to speak from your experience

Howard Lanning  38:03  
being tuned for work with Topol who was in Fiddler on the Roof with in interesting, very pleasant, and what you see is what you get, I mean, he's charming man, lovely man. There was there was an English actor, and I'm talking about the 50s Eric Portman lovely actor, lovely voice, but hated that he will be very nervous regarding post sync. He really so he would not look at the screen to watch the lip movements or the cues that we put on the screen cuz no like a line would go like that. You start talking. And I think we have we're going to do this. He said, Well, when it's time for me to speak, tap me on the shoulder and we did it and it was fine. But he was incredibly nervous, hated post sync other actors. You know, don't mind it. I don't think anybody really loves post synch directors don't and certainly artists don't because they've worked themselves up into a character they built the character and all the nuances of that part and in funny do the post synch and he will you know, it's can't get into the mood, you know? There was, there was another film that we did I was involved with, which was the haunt haunted house of horror, starred Frankie Avalon and Jill Haworth was. And this was another film that was not very well planned, and only had about 65 minutes for the feature film. So that had to be a new storyline that could be written. And they did an extra couple of weeks shooting and it's about a group of teenagers who go on to this haunted house, supposedly, and few of them get killed. And it's, it's kind of drama. So we have to move on three months, in a bit of time, it's been rewritten and Deveny the look of the artists being that they started quite young, and few of  them three months on, they couldn't get the hairstyles, and they really, you know, didn't look at all well. And also the two main actors, Frankie Avalon, and Jill Haworth were not available for the reshoots. So, so they weren't written in the problem was. They never, they never appeared in a film to a half now did he didn't move. And they were the stars. But it wasn't a good film again, his other eye problem had to do he had was a tygon film. starred George Saunders. Another very fine actor, you know, was Academy Award winner, but he was at the end of his career. And the the money was actually some of the money was backed by AIP who had Sanders under contract. So they said to him, that he's you know, it's your job to he has to do any any any work wasn't keen at all playing this army. Colonel what it was. And he was just bored with whole thing, my brother Jerry actually directed the film. That way, whenever they do take two or take three of any scene, if normally, the director isn't really happy with the first one or something's gone wrong when he wants to improve it. We we never ever get more than a tape two with George Sanders. We always used to first take first take wasn't right. But it was a lot better than the then the second take. I mean, he was very difficult it had one very simple scene where George Saunders is sitting behind a desk. And a, an orderly comes in with a very important dramatic message. So it shot in in from two angles. George Sanders sitting here, looking up at the guy, and, and the orderly you know, the guy who comes in. Now, in basic editing, it's quite often that if the sound is telling you what you want to know, then it's better to cut to the reaction. You know, it is a basic thing that you know, you can hear what I'm saying you, you know what the mood is. So let's see, you know, what we actually want and George Sanders would say his line and then go any said his line. So there was no reaction. So we had to play it on you know, it, it wasn't as it should have been, which was typical of the film that he was very, very difficult it. It's not good to, to you can't make a film if somebody did not perform

Derek Threadgall  45:17  
a brother called another Tom Conway was another brother, he paid a lot of British B films.

Howard Lanning  45:27  
Tom Conway, yeah, that was your time? Yeah, well, he's films would have been him kind of B film based in in the states vif view the fulcrum was character on character? Turn? Certainly he was he found his level his niche in the

Derek Threadgall  45:57  
did you work closely with the director or the director of photography, when you were editing the film did they come in and keep an eye

Howard Lanning  46:13  
normally. I mean, once its shot  from a camera man's point of view. It's shot and he can't do anything about it other than if you'd really not happy he can re shoot it, they can grade it to different effects, like make it lighter, make it darker, make it warmer, make it colder. But the director has got complete control of changing the whole story. Even though he's got a script and he shot it according to the script, he suddenly said that, that scene doesn't work that I think we should put it earlier or later. And the director is creating all the time. And the editor just works with him. And its lovely partnership, the editor directed partnership is a is the best took a long time for editors to be recognised for the for the contribution that they made. And but nowadays, the D editor is up there as a very important component to any. Any film.

Derek Threadgall  47:49  
An interesting question, I think, for you is with all the experience you had and all the films you've been involved with. Can I ask what have you enjoyed about your job most as as an as an editor?

Howard Lanning  48:11  
That is that is a very difficult question. Because if you've been if you really enjoyed the I'm actually done. Basically, I've been film editor. And I've been the sound editor for on features and on TV. And I don't see much difference between TV and features. Did you get the same expertise that are involved in that. But I enjoyed the the the editing process, and then adding the sound is also it's suddenly it's all coming together. I've always been very envious of composers. I really they I found you know, a sound editor is is doing his best to create a mood which is fine. But a composer comes along three or four notes and it's I did a film. It was a short called Samson and Delilah. And the scene was period film 1920s new and the film starts with the lead actor arrives in a period bus gets out, walks along the clifftops Parks in a tin mine and stops at a at an inn that scene, it's taking the titles and it's a nice scene. And I actually created quite a nice soundtrack. You know, I had the sea breaking on the shore the seagulls the tin mine the bus, it was all very, very nice. Now what happens on most films is the, the editor will have access to what we call temp music, music that isn't going to be in the film, but they use it just as a guide to get the feel of what kind of music they want. And whether the scene is framed well. And on this particular film, they they chose a track by the future John Galwayfrom the feature picnic from Hanging Rock, lovely piece, and very evocative of the scene. The scariest what can happen to the ball. And the problem there is they they kept listening to the music too long that they should have heard the music a couple of times and got rid of it. For them. What happens was the they they engaged a composer wrote a piece and he says I don't like it. So what do you mean you don't like it he says I just don't like it. They couldn't afford the to have Picnic at Hanging Rock because it had been copyright was too expensive. So he said I'm not having any music. So what we've got left with was my effects track which had the you know, the seagulls and the tin mine and it was fine it all fitted but it didn't give you an atmosphere that it so badly needed. And music is is so important. It just takes it to to another level. I mean, chariots of fire and Vangellis it took the film, who I mean, what were they doing was just athletes in slow motion on a beach. And the music just took it to a nother dimension. Very exciting. I mean, composers just have the ability to to make magic.

Derek Threadgall  53:05  
I agree with that. And I've got to ask you while you're on about composer, music, where does that? Where does the music come? When you're actually editing the film, or you have you got the music as well. When you're editing the film.

Howard Lanning  53:30  
It's not very often that music comes before the film is finished. Other than musical then you have a musical and it's done to play back and dancing and singing and everything is done that but for non musical films, then the the director and the editor will have an idea of where music is going and the type of music and and that's when they might use temp music truly as temper and they won't play, they will pay more for themselves than they would for the composer because he doesn't like to have things you know, he likes to come to it fresh and is an idea as opposed to a pre conceived type of music. I remember on Witchfinder General the the composer was also Paul Farris and he was a great friend of Mike Read a close together and and he actually did some scenes`s basic you know to the piano shape. And and that quite worked. And the actual film ended up with the largest

orchestral thing I'd worked on I mean, I mean the music in which find the work superb. And they had two sessions with over 70 muscians it was really had this big beautiful sound like Green Sleeves and really did all that. But yeah,

Derek Threadgall  55:36  
music was totally in yours 30 film they were really just background wasn't it in the early films until the media came into its own. Yeah, with as you're saying chariots of fire and Vangellis tremendous stuff. And music, I think it's now come into its own in many ways regarding films. How do you feel about the the present films that are being made?

Howard Lanning  56:10  
I'm not. Not will be happy actually. I mean, the last three occasions that we've been to cinema, we walk out

Derek Threadgall  56:20  
that'd be some sort of record. And

Howard Lanning  56:27  
I mean, one of them was with a favourite actor of mine, I should remember is he named shortly and I think we've called like dirty dads or something. And the language every single line was just swearing of oh, what is this? And you know, that they are making films for the very young and, and when they do make a film for everybody. People are surprised how, how successful it was, you know, when you have the King's Speech and, and, and lots of good films. I know that my name is Hugh Clifford is made sitting to act on a lot of big films. And most of them I haven't seen and a few a few that I have seen, I haven't really liked things like Tomb Raider. And the mummy man returns was quite nice. He did a Harry Potter. But films like Hell Boys and Batman. Too loud into Yeah, I don't think that the dubbing is as good as it used to be. There are so many occasions when you cannot hear the dialogue. And which is which, which also applies to TV. So you turn up the sound and you still can't hear the dialogue because you're bringing up the background as well. You know that the that you don't have the separation? We we used to be take pride in let's hear the dialogue and they balanced the music at a much better level. I think that is one of the biggest faults with the debt you can't hear the sound because there's no separation between the dialogue and the sound effects or music going on.

Derek Threadgall  58:54  
But talking to

Unknown Speaker  58:56  
the time change types is it very good luck to Nero De Niro.

Derek Threadgall  59:07  
No, no we were talking about in Euro

Unknown Speaker  59:09  
know about the the debt who was swearing a lot.

Derek Threadgall  59:12  
Oh, probably.

Howard Lanning  59:14  
Robert De Niro. Yes. Because he did you see the film?

Unknown Speaker  59:19  
I saw the trailer. Oh, I mean, because I see De Niro. He says on a couple of films which aren't?

Howard Lanning  59:26  
Yeah, he loved the actor means great stuff and what's he doing? Yeah. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker  59:39  
Alright, Atmos is it shredder okay.

Howard Lanning  59:48  
No more shredding. No more shredding. The the microphone is very sensitive.

Derek Threadgall  59:59  
It's Sorry about that, but there it is.

Unknown Speaker  1:00:05  
Okay, who's working?

Derek Threadgall  1:00:07  
Yeah. Work in Progress. Okay. Yeah, we could have some really, really well ever been given a speech? Oh, sorry. Yeah. So going to ask  you about the today's films and we're all about that now that you say, rightly that the dubbing is not good.

And I and going to the cinema today the sound is too loud. It's it's deafening. And it's louder with the commercials.

Howard Lanning  1:00:53  
Absolutely. You know, they I'm sure that the I mean, we don't have projectionists anymore. I know very low. But certainly the the certainly the sound level for the adverts is just unbearable you think oh god is but invariably comes down for the main feature but certainly they they are making a lot of rubbish and and all the you know diehard two diehard three diehard four you know although having said that, I did work on the sound editor on a how Howling Five. And which I quite enjoyed because I got a trip to Hollywood to two weeks of dialogues. And that was funny because we we had about 12 artists who were based in America, so it's easier for the director myself to go to, to a recording studio in Los Angeles and being over 12 people with all the expenses involved. So that was decided. And so we started at nine o'clock in the morning, and it was going really well. And I was chatting to the sound man, and we were making, you know, a relationship with quite nice. And then at five o'clock, he said bye for now. And off he went. And another crew came on. It was like shift work. So what's happening? Oh, well, we are carrying on to you know, to be fair, it was another eight hour session from you know, going up to past midnight and the director know of kind of, you know, you're still trying to stay focused and cool. In in the states the the equipment is expensive. And it never goes on holiday. You know, it doesn't have meal breaks and it's you know, it can go all the time. And, and they're like last their philosophy is that studios if the if the work is there to work all the way through. So they just bring on another crew and another crew and you just you know, it was amazing, but that was The Howling, which i i made my Hollywood debut, but it was fun.

Derek Threadgall  1:04:06  
Did you do any more Hollywood? Did you do any more in Hollywood?

Howard Lanning  1:04:16  
No, I mean, that's the only time that I've worked there. Although my nephew Clifford is based there  all the time. One of the you haven't asked me but the one of the nicest jobs in happiest jobs I did was a film called Camilla. And the sequel. And Camilla and the Thief who shot in Norway who would like a Heidi type reaction, you know? And I was the only non Norwegian on the film So it wasn't really a location film for anybody except me. When I was the editor, and I, the camera man and producer was one person. And he was married to the director, writer, very much a family unit. But I love Norway. I was there for 14 months, and had a wonderful time. It's just a very happy period. You know, really very nice. So, and also in addition to the editing, and sound editing, I also wrote the lyrics for a one songs, the English lyrics one of the songs and also had a, a small part in the film played the part of a convict which I have a photograph.

Derek Threadgall  1:06:12  
Oh, yes. Yes, sir. I was gonna ask you about some anything else that we could film relevant to what we're talking about. I know that some of the things and the certificates

Howard Lanning  1:06:30  
Well, if we're on the lynda la Plante series, and they were looking for someone to play a drunk, drunken MP and run with it. It's good typecasting, they thought he was good, though. It's funny that when our one of our granddaughters sow it, he said, Oh, Grandpa, you got to be more careful.

Derek Threadgall  1:07:07  
Not doing too badly. You've been a convict. You've been a drunk. Yeah, I mean, what else can you do?

Howard Lanning  1:07:17  
Oh, I did a he did a lot of work with ICI and commercials and they had they shot the scene with the fertiliser and mucking out. And my right foot in a boot was featured in this commercial and it ran for quite some time. It was a very famous writer. So so, you know, convict drunk, and right foot.

Derek Threadgall  1:07:56  
Well, that was a small part for you. On

Howard Lanning  1:07:59  
the spot. Yeah. Yeah. But I eh. It was amusing. I was did a small scene in filming, In Which we Serve. We starred . Noel Coward. And he co directed with David Lean. And I'm still puzzled how the the scene which did not end up in the final film. Have you seen the film? I don't know where that scene could you actually appeared because what it was is it was a raft and a group of about five people. And there were two of them were hanging on and one of them wanted to jump over and it will we will we were restraining him. So went and this was shot in Highbury studios, you know, in the main set. And, but it never ended up in the in the finished movie. And when I was chairman of the, of the editing guild, David Lean with our guest of honour, I asked him about my big scene. He couldn't remember it at all. And, you know, like a lot of good stuff gets left on the cutting room floor. So that was an appearance that never happened to the other state. You've

Derek Threadgall  1:09:30  
got you've done the convict you've done the drunk you've done the foot. I mean, the world's your oyster

Howard Lanning  1:09:38  
as acting, I don't think so

Derek Threadgall  1:09:42  
is there anything else? I mean, we're coming to the end shortly, but is there anything else that you really would like to just say that we have haven't covered we covered quite a lot of ground in the time we've had. But is there anything else that you you feel you'd like to say about anything at all regarding your career.

Howard Lanning  1:10:12  
Actually funny instances with the children with the wood it was funny, one film that I edited with with Orson Welles and Honour Blackman, and it's called the Last Roman. And we were running it in wonderful series in Wardour Street, I think was the crown theatre, and had two boys there who think he's about six and eight. And they were sitting in the front who's got a long narrow theatre, and you had the director and, and people in the back. We knew only about 10 people, you see it all together. And we're running the film and Antony Harvey kisses Honour Blackman a gentle kiss. And then a voice from from one of our sons says, oh, sexy. And my brother, who was the was the co director that says, quiet there in the front. And these two little heads just another time we were, we were shooting sound effects on a film Cowboy in Africa, John Mills and Hugh O'Brien. And what the scene was on the screen was a little pen. And there were lots of small animals. Like, I can't remember what it was is, I mean, there may have been Impala, but it was very small. And they were being let out. So you had the patter of little feet easy. So which was, and filming, we're creating this pattern of feet. And we had two guys from the BBC doing the footstep for Foley. And they were the best in the business. One of them was Larry Lucas and and and they were quite a long way from the recording desk so I was at recording desk. And our two sons were on the side. And, and the guy had a bucket, like a fire bucket with sand in it might be very close enough. So they were so far away that the sound man could hear what was going on. But we could not I mean, he had the phones on he knew what was being recorded. So right in the middle of the take one of them said, what's going on? And we got this long stare from you know, this. So take the division completely ruined. But it's had some fun with them, you know, kind of just, yeah.

Derek Threadgall  1:13:46  
Well, I think I said if you've got anything else that comes to mind. Other than that. Thank you very much indeed. I think it's been really, really interesting.

Howard Lanning  1:14:01  
Absolute pleasure.

Unknown Speaker  1:14:03  
We had a meeting the other day. And something that came up was somebody was trying to edit something by the use of it. Now the thing is, I think some of the younger people might listen this, we have no idea what it was like cutting a film in Wardour Street. I wonder if you could just explain your your daily. Okay, edit. Yeah, getting your coffee in the morning, going in there. All the bits which we don't do anymore. Okay. Typical day with your trip to the pub at night where you park the car all this knowledge no one knows about.

Howard Lanning  1:14:34  
So it's really the question is what what changes? Have you seen your time?

Derek Threadgall  1:14:41  
Yeah. Yeah, I think we'll go with that. Yeah, what? Okay. You've been 50 over 50 years in the industry. And so what major changes have you seen in the work that you've done? What's happening today?

Howard Lanning  1:15:00  
Certainly, as a film editor, theres been incredible changes, you know, absolutely. I came in the end, the end of optical sound, when you can see the modulations on the film. So I had two to three years of that before magnetic was introduced. And, you know, my memories then compared to what they have now, meaning that we had a feature film, and you have something like a minimum of 10 35 millimetre cans, and if it was separate sound and picture, it could be 20 cans, so we were always lugging around all these cans of film. And I think about what you have now, if they're going to show something, it's a little table, and I think that's fine. But but also the, I mean, the techniques have changed, the editor is still the editor. But I have tremendous respect for the, for the editors of the 30s and 40s, and 50s. Because say, film in those days, and in my early days, it was physically joined up, you know, that you you wanted to join, one bit of film to another bit of film, you would put it on a joiner, you would scrape it away. And, and film, cement and final. And then if you want you to make a change, and you wanted to take the shot later. So to make it continuous, we'd have to space out the bit that we had lost in the overlap. So we'd have to, we'd have like a, like a black frame. And of course, if you had a lot of black frames, in some weeks ago, this has been heavily caught everybody can. But it's the no days, you know, how it used to be is a director and editor would work together. And they do a cut. What do you think of that? How does that work? Yeah, that's fine, we will go with that it works, you know, but nowadays, the editor will have the facility of when he's pressing the buttons, he will arrange an edit. And I'll just take one frame off and see how that looks. So he presses a button, and he takes a frame and you remove the frame? And yeah, that's, that's better. I take another one off, you know, no, doesn't work too. Well, I will go back to the other one. There's no black frame to nobody knows how, how many attempts he did to do. There's actually no excuse for the editor of today to do a bad cut in terms of it should be he may not have the material. And, you know, it may or may not have been shot as good as it could have been to make the edits. Good. But, but he can spend time on every single cut whereas in, in when I first started, you did a cut? And if if everyone was happy with fine because you didn't, you know you you didn't want to mess about with it. The the the the other thing that is meant to see advantages now. Particularly if there's an action scene or a battle scene, and the editor will have a go and put the scene together. And then the dirctor may say, Could we try something else? So he puts that first cut on one side you've got it's still there. It's in the the tape machine is there. So he tries something else completely different variety. Yeah, that's not bad. You know what, let's do a third one have the first part of this one and the third part of that one, and do a third version. And so it goes on and eventually he's getting something that he really wants with the

With my day, in the early days, you did a version. And unless you ordered a new set of prints, you say, well, let's try something else. So you're done pick the scene, and you'd use a, you know, a nice if he says, You know, I prefer to as wealthy Hold on, I'm not sure that I can remember what it was, unless you took a a safety copy of it. And certainly the the editor of today has got it much easier. We did opticals we would have to wait a minimum of 24 hours, and much longer, I'll say get it and if it worked fine. And if not, then they never tried again. Nowadays, they can create an optical you know, under here on the desk, yeah. That works. We had a sequence in in Witchfinder, General, it was a love scene and he was like romping in, in the bed, you didn't really see anything, it was just falling over and stuff and the director wanted some long slow dissolve. So it would be like a, we start with one shot and then halfway through, it could be 20, you know, 20 foot dissolve to another scene for you. So you're seeing two images on the screen at equal weight. And then before that finishes another one, another one and one point there were seven images on the screen. And when the optical people have to deal with that, every time they put another image on the gotta regrade it because I can't have 100% on two shots I have to and it's it's difficult, it really is difficult. And the the guy did an attempt at the optical once. And he said I think I can improve it. And also at the end of one dissolve, there was a there was the bit of duff film that just you just saw it before it dissolve down and but he did it a second time. Brilliant, very clever, who done on film and all come with a million calculations that nowadays they would know exactly they getting another interesting thing I did it to film called Heading for Glory, you would that 1974 World Cup shot on 16 mil. But they put they made a 35 mil blow up. And it worked incredibly well. Nothing like the quality that you can get now with HD. I mean, the images today on TV are stunning but it was was quite interesting. And then we finished it in widescreen. So which meant that we were losing top and bottom`, but we had we actually we actually framed every scene and we had five traditions we had the top to middle we had the bottom to the top and we had the middle then we had in between. So, we would run the sequence you see where we you know where we got the best of the ball being kicked because you know, they weren't anticipated shots that cameraman had to follow the action of the ball you know and it was it was interesting you know like invariably we never use the top of the frame or the bottom of the frame of course there were there kind of hairs in the gate you know, so we can do to us centre and the others but it was it was interesting thing. The what would happen to in addition to the feature film we did thirty six, half hour matches of all the games And for the main feature, we did a lot of crowd seeing big close up of crowds, you know, of, of individuals a shot in Germany. So we had no, we gave a name to a close up, if you fix issues, you know, whatever. And, and for the thirtysix games, we, we used a lot of cutaways cos , we didn't have the material. And these guys appear in every one of these games, which had actually been lots of them were being screened simultaneously in different parts of Germany. But we had the the the same crowd scenes, and also one really funny thing who we were, it was shot in colour, and we were working with black and white printing costs of cost. And we were short of some shots in a particular game, but we knew that that team was playing another match. So we actually edited using some of the shots  from another match, same key. And then when we saw the colour version Well, you know, that the disadvantage of working in wel we had some funny moments? Well, I've

Derek Threadgall  1:26:33  
always believed and I know, Pete, some people in the business will disagree with me, but being in the business or this, these these years, etc, and seeing so many films, and then working on the production. So, to me, the most important person in any feature film or any film at all, really is not the director, it's not the, the lighting camera man or whatever, it's the editor.

Howard Lanning  1:27:08  
Well, people do say that, and you can't understate the the value of an editor. But it's still still the directed medium. And quite often, you will see a director working with particular editor thinking along the same wavelength, and they, they've built up a

Derek Threadgall  1:27:40  
Lean, David Lean and of course, the

Howard Lanning  1:27:43  
the, however, the editor assembles the the first edit, it can be changed, it can be changed, but but in fact, and and sometimes the director said, Oh, I didn't think that I mean, that wasn't in my visual plan, but, but I like it, you know, and it's, but I think nowadays, the, the editor has got the respect and, and the value, and they have an Academy Award for editing and sound editing. So, so it all works,

Derek Threadgall  1:28:28  
but I think they're gonna make or break our film. In if you've got a bad book, not bad, but a difficult one, or the directors not terribly good. Or whatever happens. You could make it I mean, you can go, you can only work with what you have. You can't magically produce extra bits to go in, you can only work with what you have, what the directors done, what the lighting cameras down what everyone else had done. So it seems I think we're doing a piece about Jim Clark. And he was saying the same thing that he could only work with what he's got. But he became known as the what at the movie doctor, because he often be thrown stuff. Yeah. And he then produced something really good out of that stuff. Because he was able to do it, and they know the doctor. But no, I really do think the role of the editor has always been underestimated, basically because people don't know about the editor. Yeah. And they work on directors and they work on on the on the photographers and the actors, but they don't know what goes on behind that.

Howard Lanning  1:29:52  
What is exciting about the job is that with anything is different stages you have the shooting of the film, so there's daily rushes, or dailies wherever. And so this relationship between you and the director if it's not a location, film, and even now, even if its location in the editorial, communication, so the today's the shooting of the film, and the assembling as you go along, then they finish shooting. And you've got the really creating the film and chang ing. And then there's the third stage where the sound comes in, and, and the music. And so each stage has got, by the time you finish shooting, you think, Oh, I'm glad the shootings over there in the ? will say, No more rushes no more thinking out that we've done all that. And so then you move on to the second stage, which is, which is the best stage because it's you and the director, building something you know, and it's a one to one director, we'll always say that the best part of filmmaking is the issue working with the editor, because when when shooting, a director is involved with 100 people, he's going to make sure they're all you've keeping them all occupied and everything. And lots of problems, lots of decisions. But then he's done that. And now he's, he's going to start the editing is just to director and the editor, and I really enjoyed that. And then the sound is it's like a perk because it's kind of you know, you go from life and music and, and, you know, secrete slaty Yeah, fine. Okay. Or revoicing? And if all a bit more listening?

Derek Threadgall  1:32:15  
Are you happy with it, Steve? Well, this

Unknown Speaker  1:32:17  
was one thing, which now has to be mentioned, so far, the laboratory, I believe in the old days, you and the laboratory, we have quite a close working relationship. But that's just gone now isin't it. So what do you think about that? I mean, is the lapse?

Derek Threadgall  1:32:32  
Who asked me the question? Yes. We haven't touched on the other important aspect of editing is laboratories. And you've obviously been involved when you've been editing a film with the laboratories, at some point. Have you missed it at all? I missed them.

Howard Lanning  1:32:54  
I mean, that's really very sad. Because one actually spent a lot of time in the lab with technicians. And one thing that always interested me is that when you met somebody in a laboratory, who had a particular job, you could go back 20 years later, and invariably, they were still there. I mean, technicians, most of them, you know, achieve the, the 25 year watch the 50 year watch, because, you know, when they got into a laboratory, they were there. Sadly most labs have closed now, because there isn't, you know, there, there isn't demand for processing. I was told that Kodak has almost finished, you know, I mean, that was the lifeblood of the film industry. And it's just it's very sad passing that took we have lost that, you know, into reaction with the laboratories. And, and they were great. And it was it was a whole pattern of mature material would be shot and processed. And you would there were a couple of series that I worked on did I would go to the laboratories to view the rushes because the the timeframe of viewing the rushes early in the morning and if was a real problem with the scene was not usable one had time to contact the unit and say bla bla bla bla hasn't worked out they still got the set if they haven't actually moved away from the set. So I mean that that time frame was always useful that you report back to the camera man very early in the morning say everything looks great fine. So that saves a lot of time of course they hate going back to something but if you're already there you know the lights are in position and everything but that is a very sad passing you know it is but then again that that's progress, which is not always happy

Derek Threadgall  1:35:53  
or one final thing unless you got anything else do

Unknown Speaker  1:35:57  
what maybe a couple of words on the pictures at some point before Yeah, that one is fine

Howard Lanning  1:36:16  
this is by cartoonist Norman Hood. And the occasion was my 70th birthday. And so he would ask questions about what do you do work at what you're interested in what you thought and from that I used to play golf, but still play golf not very good. And he put the camera there I need to very clever he does some nomination for the for the TV thing. Max Headroom. We should actually very interesting in that I mean, that was like a feature film with lots of strains and lots of characters. And it was a complete misunderstanding or mixup with the people who were putting the money up for Max Headroom. And the producer director the the producers loved the script. And loved everything about Max Headroom. But they were under the impression that that was a just one of a series of stories and certainly the way it was written then the storys could have gone you know, all various ways. I mean, there was a lot there too, too. But in actual fact the producers the the Max Headroom is which is come from maximum headroom that's that's where the name came from in in maximum headroom. He was this kind of character who would tell jokes and and tell stories and he was just I mean the actual master or pilot was was really great and and they knew this whole who hah where were the other scripts and and when you're on scripts I've I've spoken about a Foreign Field with Alec Guinness which was delightful and this one up here Lost Belongings. It's very interesting it was shot in Belfast and Dublin and and it was with a a Catholic girl and a Protestant boy of love story we really it was a six parter. Very good there was one amusing incident without we were recording sound effects or authentic sound effects and we had schoolchildren then Irish school children and Irish supermarket for the voices came through and we had the the had the camera man with us And we had this kind of a clipboard, and kind of like making notes and stuff. And we were close to this building site, a whole load of builders. They took one look at us, and they all ran off in different directions. They thought we were some income tax attorney which is which is quite funny. I and then the other thing is the, the British Kinematograph Sound and  Television Society when I was awarded a, a fellowship for working sound. And just talking about my work in sound, on film, Defence of the Realm, which I really enjoy with very good movie, we had this I was doing some sound effects. And we had this scene of a

taxi arriving late at night in a quiet square, Kensington ticking over and driving away, I had a very simple scene to record. And so I went out, hired a taxi with the sound recordist. And we could not find a sound we could not find a quiet spot. We're driving around to a lot of squares with too much noise in and the movie goes told by the taxi driver, why don't we go to the inner circle of Regent Park? That's a good idea. So we went to Regent's Park. And it was absolutely perfect distance sound and it was just great. But it was it was you know, it was dark. And and I said I'll give one wave to start and a double wave to stop and another wave to start again. He said why don't I give you a torch and you flash it once or twice. I said who's running this thing. So it's always nice that the you know to be told by someone who knows nothing about the film industry and a person who is a fellow of the video kinematic society to be told by a taxi driver how to do a job and he was absolutely right.

Derek Threadgall  1:43:06  
Can I mentioned CGI?

Howard Lanning  1:43:10  
Yes. Yes.

Derek Threadgall  1:43:11  
I mentioned CGI. Well,

Howard Lanning  1:43:14  
CGI has certainly what is CGI it? It's come. It's computer graphic imagery. And it's revolutionised the film industry that I give talks on films occasionally. And I show an example of, of an aeroplane on a runway stationary. There's no background so boring and uninteresting, and the director wanted a background so the CGI guys got involved and created a mountain background. So we're able to show the non background to the background and it has a kind of a wow factor and it is the only thing now? Which which means taking a bit of excitement out? There isn't anything that they that they can't do now? I mean, two of my brothers, Jerry and Steve both worked on Gandhi which had enormous crowd scenes. That will never happen again. Like what I did in in Gladiator days, the day they can make a crowd of 1000 for just 100 people. A friend of mine does crowd work any had to go to Winchester cathedral knew about about 80 of them in costume and go in like three rows, there was three rows. And on a given cue that to stand up, take off the hat, long lived queen, that's what had to do. So they did half a dozen time to the director was happy with that. If you look, you in the front row, you go to the third row, and you in the middle swap over and they did it again. And they did it again. And they did it about a dozen times throughout the day. And then they made some kind of composite look for the crowd to see what they did. wasn't finished off, it was purely just a guide, you had the 1000s of people standing up and lonomg to create. And you see. And I have to say that I get bored with special effects film because I know it's just money and time and where the special effects of the searches and 40s and 50s were really exciting because they were creative, dangerous. And the but today it's all kind of a bit

Derek Threadgall  1:46:34  
I guess I'd lost he's lost a bit of the the fame as well as the interest and excitement. CGI now as you're trying to come to anything. But going back as I was saying to you earlier about the special effects guys. I mean, they were some of them are quite mad. But they did the job they produced the most amazing things. The one, the one thing just just very, very briefly with the chopped off hand and with the chopped off hand I was a Christopher Lee film that I was involved with. And in sitting down in the canteen, a especial effects guy came in and sat down beside me. And he pulled out what he'd made his hand up cut off at the wrist. And there's two secretaries are sitting opposite with their lunch and he put little batteries in every joint of the of the finger and the thumb and he put it on the table. And he he started it and he pointed it at the Secretary's lunches and said kill and this hand went across the table straight across into the hallway it mayhem mayhem chairs everywhere. Spread and he picked it up yesterday. Hey that works. Put it in his pocket went out and crazy here

Howard Lanning  1:48:10  
 No it's then I mean there isn't anything that they they can't do now. Which I think has taken out some of the it has it has you know excitement good story. Good acting, you know film is all about

Unknown Speaker  1:48:32  
anything else Steve just the right foot right we'll get right for acting with the sock that you luxating lovely happy now Yeah.

Howard Lanning  1:48:53  
broken it. I'm actually have a photograph of it. Oh yes,

Derek Threadgall  1:48:57  


Howard Lanning, past-president of the British Cinema and Television Veterans, provides a mini masterclass for those who are interested in the development of sound editing both in film and television. Howard's father was an editor on some of the last silent films in the 1920s Howard's long career in the industry is a template for sound editing. Along the way, he has worked with  many big names in the industry and has anecdotes relating to them and to his work with them. In his interview, he  traces,through his personal experience, sound editing, from it's beginnings to the modern editing technology of today.. Derek Threadgall.