Behind the Scenes of 24 Hours in A&E with James Ralph

When you think about your favorite television show, what comes to mind? Is it your favorite actor’s Emmy-worthy performance? Or is it perhaps set in a part of the world that you’ve been itching to explore for all of your life. Is it funny, or is it sad? Is it dramatic, or is it scary? No matter what comes to mind, each component that makes it the show you love and cherish is rooted in an editor’s ability to tie every element together seamlessly before your eyes. Without the help of a skilled editor, storylines would falter and viewers would lose interest. Films and television shows that dominate the industry require a seasoned editor, one with a keen ability to captivate an audience and ensure that only the best quality content makes a final cut. They require an editor like James Ralph.

Ralph’s versatility as an editor makes him difficult to define, but a mere glance at his work will tell you that his talents are profound. His ability to transform his skill set to meet the demands of the project before him allow him to ease into new premises, scripts, and storylines flawlessly. He brings a certain authenticity and creative edge to his work that makes him instrumental to every job he accepts and over a twenty-year career he has accepted many. His unique editorial style can be understood through a variety of different projects he has worked on, from British favorites like X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK, to hit reality television shows like Love Island and First Dates. He differentiates himself as an editor through his natural ability to transition between different genres without weakness. According to Ralph, he doesn’t have one specific style or technique that characterizes him, which makes him all the more suitable to work on a diverse array of projects.

“I wouldn’t say that I have a definite style as my work spans multiple genres. I think my work is always smooth in that you can watch it without ever being aware that there are edits – unless I’ve placed them there deliberately. Editorially, I am thoughtful, intelligent, visually creative, and musically dynamic, all of which are crucial to any story you’re trying to tell. I think that there is a certain energy in everything I do,” tells Ralph.

Over the last three years, Ralph has worked on a number of series for the well-known British television show, 24 Hours in A&E. 24 Hours in A&E is a medical documentary set in a busy hospital in London, England. The unique docuseries offers an inside look at one of Britain’s busiest Accident & Emergency departments. For the show, cameras roll for 24-hours straight over the span of a 28-day period.

With a reputation as unparalleled as Ralph’s, it is not uncommon for a production company to solicit his talents. When 24 Hours in A&E’s production company, The Garden, were looking for an editor to flavor their series with the perfect amount of suspense and truth, they demanded that Ralph come on board. In fact, the show’s Executive Producer, Spencer Kelly, had worked with Ralph in the past and knew he was the perfect fit for the job. For Ralph, the opportunity was too great to turn down and knowing The Garden’s respected reputation in the factual and documentary making world, he was eager to accept.

Despite Kelly’s experience working with Ralph, he never ceases to be amazed by the quality of Ralph’s editing skills. Ralph is a rarity in his field and production companies are extremely fortunate when they come across talent as remarkable as his.

“I have worked with James on prime-time series for BBC 1 and for the last three seasons of 24 Hours in A E. Throughout each, he has brought a unique combination of consistency and editorial clarity. His work is beautifully crafted and his editing delivers compelling, thoughtful and entertaining television,” states Kelly. He also points out that Ralph’s “good humor and hardworking, collaborative attitude make him a pleasure to work with. Most importantly, he is quick at what he does so he can quickly sift through material and implement changes to meet pressured deadlines.”

As an editor, speed is crucial; however, the true art of editing shows in an editor’s ability to produce content quickly without sacrificing quality. Ralph is well-versed in this skill and it makes him a true asset to the teams he works on. For 24 Hours in A&E, this skill is paramount to the show’s success. Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter, it is important for Ralph to be able to accurately portray each situation with every aspect of authenticity and human nature possible. The show’s audience become privy to very intimate parts of people’s lives, ranging from birth to death and everything in between and as a result, Ralph has to thoroughly explore all of the footage, identifying any stories or themes that can be developed into an episode. On the surface, the show is about medicine but in reality, it is about people and the often fascinating stories of their lives. It is a challenge unlike any of Ralph’s other projects.

“It can be very challenging when you’re faced with the reality that people sometimes die or appear on the show with appalling injuries. As an editor, I have to work with this footage and find ways to tell these people’s stories without glorifying or reveling in the gruesomeness of the situations. It’s all about being sensitive and respectful to the people on the show and to your audience as you tell each story and ensure that you do them justice,” notes Ralph.

From an editing standpoint, 24 Hours in A&E was a thrilling job. With full creative reign, Ralph was trusted to make his own decisions in terms of which stories he followed and developed. He thrives in an autonomous environment, allowing his unrestricted creativity to reach the surface. He loves the responsibility that comes with being able to showcase such raw, human stories. There are moments of humor, as well as moments of grief. It can be touching, but also devastating. The show is characterized by a wide spectrum of emotions and Ralph gets to choose how he wishes to present each and every one. He has been instrumental to the show’s success and is without a doubt one of the main reasons that his viewers absorb the show in the way that they do.

“I take a great deal of pride knowing that the show is so popular, not only with the public but also amongst my colleagues. The fact that it is repeatedly commissioned, as well as on repeat across many of Channel 4’s subsidiary channels, is a tribute to the hard work and dedication that goes into making it. It’s one of those shows that a lot of my friends in the industry always say, “I wish I worked on that,” concludes Ralph, and he is proud that he does.

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