The 2011 Ten to Watch: Geoff Ashenhurst

Geoff Ashenhurst

Each year, Playback puts out a call for the industry to recommend its best and brightest
up-and-coming talent for our 10 to Watch list. With over 100 nominations this year, including only 10 seemed impossible — virtually every nominee deserved to be on the list. The selection represented here is the culmination of careful consideration by Playback’s editorial jury, in association with film, TV and interactive industry execs and organizations. Having already made a splash, these talented 10 are poised for great things.

Geoff Ashenhurst / editor

Hometown: Toronto
Agency: Vanguarde Artists Management
Big break: Defendor, 2009

The buzz: After losing two editors while directing an “epically ambitious” short in 2000, Ashenhurst bought himself Final Cut Pro, taught himself to use it and edited the film himself, realizing in the process that he loved to edit. Working his way up the ladder, Ashenhurst landed his first big feature gig for 2009’s Defendor, starring Woody Harrelson. The film earned him a DGC nomination for best picture editing of a feature film, kicking off his career in features. He’s since edited Jonathan Sobol’s Beginner’s Guide to Endings, co-edited Larysa Kondracki’s The Whistleblower and most recently wrapped work on The Samaritan from David Weaver.

What prompted the change in career?
I’d interviewed for an assistant director gig on Atom Egoyan’s Ararat and also for an editor’s job at an ad agency before backpacking through Europe in 2001. I liked Atom and the job was pretty alluring — and the editor job made far, far less money — but in the end, I decided [editing] was what I wanted to pursue. Directing wasn’t creatively fulfilling for me, unlike editing — looking at material with fresh eyes, making it work and finding the movie.

What are some of the things you’ve learned as a features editor?
On any movie, you may think it’s great and you think you’re done, then you screen it for people, and issues emerge and suddenly you think it sucks and then it doesn’t suck. It’s dealing with those ups and downs, which is part of any creative process. It’s a tough thing to get through. I’ve been able to learn from those experiences and be more aware of my emotions.

Have you run into any surreal moments while editing?
The first time I went to the Defendor set, I brought my laptop so I could show [producer Peter Stebbings] some of the scenes. Peter called over Woody Harrelson and said, “Hey, Woody, do you want to see this stuff?” He left us alone in a holding room and there I was, standing with Woody, showing him these scenes on the laptop and he said, “These scenes are pretty good, man.” They were ready for him on set, but he didn’t want to leave!

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