Mike Bradsell

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Mike Bradsell (editor) Biography


Mike Bradsell was born in 1933 in Westcliff-on-Sea. When he left school, the teachers asked what career he had in mind and he said 'film' which they dismissed as impossible because he had no contacts in the industry. After a while training to be an accountant he took the opportunity to learn photography at Regent Street Polytechnic, which was not quite film making but closer than accountancy. It was while there that he heard of a job going at 'United Motion Pictures' which he jumped at. UMP was not nearly as grand as it sounded; with about twelve on the staff it was too small for ACTT (the film union) to even notice. During his seven years at the company Mike gained experience in all departments; production, cinematography, sound etc. but he realised that it was editing that suited him most. UMP mainly produced and serviced industrial documentaries, but while there Mike edited a documentary about gypsies called 'Lords of Little Egypt' directed by Mai Zetterling, which got transmitted on the BBC.


In !962 (at the age of 29) Mike managed to join the BBC, but he had to reduce his grade to assistant editor, and it was only a temporary position. It was in1964 that Mike got his big chance; he was working as an assistant on a documentary about Marshal Tito, produced by Stephen Hearst and there was a young Assistant Producer on the film who had just joined the BBC called Peter Watkins. Mike and Peter worked well together and later that year when Peter Watkins persuaded Huw Wheldon to let him make a dramatised documentary about the Battle of Culloden, he asked Mike to edit it. The film was a television landmark with a revolutionary dramatic use of news-like realism. They continued together on 'The War Game', another brilliant drama/documentary which the BBC banned from television transmission anywhere in the world, although it did go on to win an Oscar for best documentary in 1967.


Meanwhile many director/producers at the BBC started contacting Mike Bradsell; among them was Ken Russell who realised that he remembered Mike from UMP when he had helped Russell sort out the music for a film about Lourdes. They went on to work together on many television and feature films. The first was 'Diary of a Nobody' in 1964. Others included 'Isadora', 'Women in Love', 'The Music Lovers', 'The Devils', 'The Boy Friend', 'Savage Messiah' and 'Mahler'. Although Russell could be difficult to work with at times Bradsell found a way to handle him and shared his love of music and creative approach to film.


Altogether Mike Bradsell edited about 50 feature films for different directors, including 'That'll be the day' 'Swallows and Amazons', 'Scum', 'Local Hero', 'Wilde', 'Absolute Beginners' and 'Henry the Fifth'. Several of these were produced by David Puttnam who put a lot trust in Mike and realised that at the start of the edit he was best left alone to explore the material in his own way. David would urge directors to let Mike produce the first cut on his own before viewing it. Mike liked it best when the audience were not aware of the editing. Apart from occasional shock cuts he thought that the skill was to make his skill invisible. Despite failing eyesight, he was still editing at the age of seventy-five.

Simon Rose