Simon Gibbs

Film and Video Editor

Ethiopia, or my first edit

Sunday, June 7th, 2020

There are many routes to find out that you have a passion.

Sometimes it’s obvious, and people capitalise quickly. Many people interested in film do media courses and goto dedicated schools out of a desire to replicate shows and features that they had seen.

I didn’t discover my passion for editing until well after University, however it was a skill I had already started to put in place. The necessity to tell a story through video was something that had cropped up much earlier and I had found ways to do it.

Ethiopia, particularly Addis Ababa, is a place very close to my heart and each of the three times I’ve visited have been truly formative. I first went when I was 14 and the experience changed my mindscape; I saw people with nothing who relied on faith alone, political struggles, different cultures and had experiences that no 14 year old should have – like having a gun pointed at my face. Through all that I watched as my Dad helped film video footage and took photos, as I helped carry the equipment.

Meskel Square at Sunset

In 2005, at age 18, I set off to the country once again for three months to help at a local charity called IHA-UDP (Integrated Holistic Approach – Urban Development Project). Their idea was to create a self-sustaining environment that would allow people to get jobs and rebuild the community from the ground up. Over the next three months I would experience things that inspire, haunt, and excite me to this day. I never knew what would happen next, from sitting in a corrugated iron hut with a lady looking at the last days of her life as AIDs ravaged her, watch as political unrest once again takes hold in a fractured country, learn how to feed an eagle pizza, and to spending the day with Brad Pitt. The days were eclectic to say the least!

Through every visit, in someway, video has been an essential part.

The experiences I were having were special, and I needed to find a way to show my family back at home. It was also a way to decipher my own feelings and to see these experiences as a viewer instead of living them. Amongst my possessions was a Toshiba laptop and a small cheap digital video camera. This camera was found by a friend, I don’t ask where he got it, all I know was that it was £25 and it recorded something akin to videos that early mobile phones would record.

I started filming clips and found I needed to find ways to thread them together – and to get them to my family. It has to also be noted that internet access was very limited, and YouTube was yet to take ahold.

Two children staying at houses the project helped create

I discovered I had a tool called Windows Movie Maker on the laptop – and using this I would replicate what I had seen in the shows and films I watched. A particular influence was Spaced, the Edgar Wright show, whose DVD had made the trip and became a frequent watch by myself and the people I was staying with.

Over February (the first month I was there) I pieced together a series of 7 videos (5 if you don’t count the intro and the credits). Each video was primarily a music video, as the audio on the camera was so poor. Together they made up part of a 30 minute sequence. It started with a BBC 2 ident with custom voice over, a star wars style text scroll, a ten minute montage of many sights I saw, a personal to camera message, a video focusing on a day trip, a silly view of where I was staying, a video for the charity I was at, and finally credits – mainly included as I knew my Dad would want to know what music I was using!

I managed to record the music on to my computer from my minidisc player – sometimes creating loops using Audacity.

A visitor to my office

To finish, I managed to put the videos together onto a VCD (remember those?! – basically a DVD but on a normal CD) so my family could play the disc on a DVD player back at home. The disc went back with someone who was travelling back to the UK.

This was my first time editing anything and it was purely out of this essential need to tell some stories. To share something of the experiences I was having. I didn’t know if I was successful – until I got reports that the disc had my father in tears and it was now being shared with the local Church and wider friends.

I think this was more from the unexpected arrival, and the moment of a proud father, rather than an emotional punch from the footage. Still; I look back on the videos and smile. It was the first time I would edit anything, and I am flooded with memories from that three month period with each watch.

Little did I know that these videos would be where I want to take my career.

Somehow YouTube is yet to take down one of the videos I uploaded. This is the very first video I ever edited, scored with Orbital’s “Halcyon and On and On“.

In 2017 I visited Ethiopia again, this time with the intention of filming for a Charity – once again an unforgettable experience but to be recounted another time.