How Editor Kim Horton Mixed Old and New Footage for Michael Apted’s ’63 Up’ Docu

In film history, there’s never been a project like the nine “Up” British documentaries, which have presented unique challenges for director Michael Apted and editor Kim Horton as they follow the lives of British individuals in seven-year intervals. Horton, who has edited the films since the 1984 “28 Up,” says, “It’s probably the greatest thing I’ve ever done. Michael refers to it as his life’s work, and I see it the same way.”

The first film, “Seven Up!,” was made in 1964 for British TV, and intended as a one-off to show class differences among a group of 7-year-olds. Seven years later, someone suggested a follow-up, and it proved so successful that Apted has been directing new editions every seven years.

BritBox makes its theatrical debut with “63 Up,” currently in theaters before its launch on the streaming service. The new edition follows the same format as the others: Each subject is given about 10 minutes, during which Horton must present a recap of their lives from the film archives, along with updates via a one-on-one interview and B-roll footage.

“We treat each film as if a viewer hasn’t previously seen the others,” Horton says. “Some archive moments are familiar, because why wouldn’t you use those? But with each new interview come new opportunities. I like to go back into the archives to find stuff we haven’t used before.”

Popular on Variety

Horton says that many viewers are longtime fans. “With Twitter you get feedback from people, saying, ‘Why didn’t you use the dog chasing the rabbit when Suzy was 14?’” he says.

It’s impressive that of the original 14 participants, only one dropped out — interestingly, he’s become a documentary maker himself. For “56 Up,” 13 of the 14 participated, but the new edition is down to 12, due to the death of one woman, marking the first passing in the series.

And while a few “63 Up” interviewees mention Brexit and Uber, the filmmakers downplay current events. “We’re pointing our camera at ordinary lives,” says Horton, “the things all of us go through: the families, the relationships. Out of that comes the emotion; when they’re talking about a child or the death of a parent, it’s something all of us can understand.”

Horton marvels at how an editor’s work has changed due to technical advances, but the storytelling remains consistent. The new film runs 138 minutes, comparable with the 133 minutes of “28 Up,” when he began. That’s surprising, considering how much more material could be covered.

The filmmakers also have stuck with one version of each film, rather than extended cuts for various platforms.

“We could go much longer if there were financing for alternate versions, but it’s always run on a tight budget,” Horton says. Besides, “you can’t push an audience too hard” with massive running times.

Horton praises Apted and the “Up” team, and he’s grateful for the opportunity to be on it. “The emotion is what interests me as an editor. To have that material, it’s the best. You can’t get better than dealing with people’s lives.” 

More Film

  • Charlize Theron Jay Roach Bombshell BTS

    How Charlize Theron Helped Save Her 'Bombshell' Production

    Exactly two weeks before “Bombshell” was set to begin shooting, Annapurna backed out of the $35 million production. Producer Charlize Theron, who also stars in the film, was on a location scout with production department heads when she heard the bad news. “We had [cast] Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie — two of the busiest [...]

  • Wasp Network

    Netflix Scoops Olivier Assayas's 'Wasp Network' With Penelope Cruz, Edgar Ramirez (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has acquired U.S. rights and several other territories for Olivier Assayas’ “Wasp Network,” the Cuban spy thriller headlined by Penelope Cruz and Edgar Ramirez which world premiered at Venice last year, Variety has learned. The streaming giant is believed to have bought international rights to the film outside of China, Eastern Europe, Greece, Portugal, [...]

  • Octavia Spencer PGA Visionary Award

    Octavia Spencer Faced a Hard Fight to Gain Traction in Hollywood

    Octavia Spencer never believed she would be in front of the camera. Instead, she always saw herself as a producer. Her award-winning performances in movies such as “The Help,” “Hidden Figures” and “The Shape of Water” helped Spencer, recipient of the Visionary Award at the PGA Awards this year, to do both. But getting traction [...]

  • Jeremy Kleiner Dede Gardner Brad Pitt

    Brad Pitt's Production Banner Plan B Relies on Creative Diversity

    “For a long time people tried to figure out ‘What is Plan B?’” says Plan B principal Dede Gardner, who along with fellow executives Jeremy Kleiner and Brad Pitt will receive the David O. Selznick Award at the 31st annual Producers Guild Awards on Jan. 18. “I remember Brad came to us the year that [...]

  • Allison Janney and Viola Davis appear

    Film Review: 'Troop Zero'

    You’ve probably seen a version of “Troop Zero” before. Whether that version was called “Troop Beverly Hills,” “The Mighty Ducks,” or an edited-for-TV showing of “The Bad News Bears,” it’s unlikely that anything here will be particularly fresh to anyone but the youngest of viewers. But novelty does not appear to have been high on [...]

  • Cast of 'Black Panther'25th Annual Screen

    Peers Honoring Peers: What Makes SAG Awards Special

    The 26th annual SAG Awards will be held Jan. 19 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles and broadcast live on both TNT and TBS at 8 p.m. EST. The SAG Awards are different from typical awards ceremonies for a number of reasons — beginning with length. The show, which comes in at two hours, [...]

  • Ted Sarandos Milestone Award PGA

    Netflix Leader Ted Sarandos Plans Broader Creative Push for the Future

    Ted Sarandos, who has helped to upend the way audiences receive and consume entertainment as Netflix’s chief content officer, will be honored with the Milestone Award at the 31st annual Producers Guild Awards on Jan. 18. Game-changers including Steven Spielberg, Sherry Lansing, Robert Iger, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Ron Meyer have previously received the recognition, and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content