14/02/24 • News & Happenings

The Lightbulb Moment…

...with Mark Gilleece!

Back to Spotlight

This month’s Lightbulb Moment is fuelled by none other than Mark Gilleece, Lighthouse Keeper since 2017 and resident Editor extraordinaire. Mark’s been holding down the fort in our editing department since our very first production, clocking in almost as many hours as our studio’s been around!

Whether collaborating closely with visionary director – and our head creative – Gilly Fogg, on award-winning projects like El Deafo and Bug Diaries, or lending his expertise to our production teams on serviced work, such as The Cuphead Show! and Rick and Morty S7, Mark has played a role in shaping every piece of work that leaves our studio.

Knowing Mark as long as we do, and the supreme talent and skill he brings to every production, it’s hard to imagine a time when he didn’t work at Lighthouse, and even harder to imagine him not working in the animation sector. Say what now?

Fill us in, Mark!

I’ve been an animation editor for around 14 years now, but before that, I worked entirely in live-action. While I’ve been a fan of animation all my life, the opportunity to work in it first came about back in 2010, when my friend Dan Pickering created and produced the show Little Charley Bear.


I’d done some writing for Dan, and he knew I worked as an editor, so he invited me over to London to edit the show. I tried to point out that I had no experience in animation, but he reckoned I’d figure it out. So, I set about reading everything there was to find – which wasn’t much at the time.

I came across an interview with Pixar’s lead editor Lee Unkrich, in which he talked about coming from a live-action background himself, and how the skills an editor brings to animation are essentially the same.

This was reassuring, but when he went on to explain the role an editor plays in helping to set the ‘tone’ at the animatic stage, I was fascinated! In live action, I’d seen talented directors shaping tone through camerawork and shot selection, but to read how an animation editor could work alongside the director, before the animation is even created, was incredibly exciting. That was my lightbulb moment.

When I started working on Little Charley Bear, the show’s director, Mark Woollard, enthusiastically shared his knowledge with me and helped get me up to speed with animatic editing. Together, we worked hard to build a foundation on which the animators could build.

At the animation stage, we refined further, creating the calm, careful pacing of Little Charley Bear. Later, when I saw the show on TV, it stood out as a quiet little oasis alongside the louder and more chaotic pre-school shows it was programmed against.

After Little Charley Bear, I joined Brown Bag Films. There, I worked mainly on The Henry Hugglemonster Show with senior editor Brian O’Brien and director Norton Virgien (Rugrats) another mentor I was lucky to work with and learn from.

A stint at Windmill Lane as a VFX Editor on the film Young Ones introduced me to some advanced production tools that I’d soon see deployed in animation, Shotgrid being one.

It wasn’t until joining Kavaleer that I first worked in a 2D pipeline, and I learned that not all productions are further edited after the animation stage. I made the case for how minor trims and adjustments can improve flow and reduce the need for retakes, and eventually we found space for another edit pass late in the workflow.

I also decided to insert myself into a far earlier part of the storytelling process, writing three episodes of Kiva Can Do! Kindly encouraged by creator Andrew Kavanagh, producer Lindsey Adams and script editor Shannon George, this remains one of the more creatively challenging and rewarding moments of my career.

In 2017 I heard about a new studio opening in Kilkenny. I decided to travel down for the open day. I soon found myself in an unexpected interview with Head Creative, Gilly Fogg, and Head of Production, Cormac Slevin. They seemed to like me, and after further endorsement from Cartoon Saloon’s Head of Editing, Alan Slattery, I joined the fledgling Lighthouse Studios!

Bug Diaries was the first Lighthouse show to air, and the biggest production I’d worked on to date. This was followed by a couple of serviced productions, where the client looked after the animatic editing. This meant a little less work on my desk – however that was all about to change with El Deafo.

Based on the graphic memoir of Cece Bell, El Deafo’s delicate tone required care and sensitivity. It was a balancing act between the carefree fantasy of Cece Bell’s superhero alter ego ‘El Deafo’ and the sometimes sad and complicated world of a young girl dealing with hearing loss.

We started with the unique step of building a fully mixed radio play to help convey to the audience how it might feel to be in Cece’s world. I was really looking forward to spending the next six months working alongside Gilly, El Deafo’s director, to bring the animatics to life. Unfortunately, the pandemic had other plans.

Instead, much of the next year was a scramble to coordinate everyone working remotely and somehow squeeze in the creative editing between addressing the various workflow challenges. I will forever be grateful to Neasa Purcell, Assistant Editor at Lighthouse at the time, who helped me create a space to give El Deafo the attention it deserved.

The pandemic brought with it some other challenges too. We’d swapped the scratch audio for ‘temp-final’ audio with the actors (recorded via Zoom), but it wasn’t yet safe to record them in a studio. Not usually a problem, but our schedule dictated that we needed to start animation without that final audio.

When the cast eventually did have access to a recording studio, I went back in to replace all the ‘temp-final’ audio with the ‘final-final’ audio. Sometimes it dropped right in, and sometimes the lip-sync would need to be re-animated. Sometimes the tone was right on, sometimes it took several attempts to get it back.

Towards the end of the process, I heard Katie Crutchfield’s songs and Michael Andrew’s score… and I was overwhelmed. They’d picked up on everything we’d worked so hard to include and pushed it into the stratosphere. I still well up when I re-watch certain scenes. How lucky I am to have worked on something that moved me so much.

Speaking of which, I feel lucky every day to have taken this ‘path less travelled’ as an editor. Moment by moment, I get to help these shows come alive before they’re enjoyed by millions around the world. And I get to work alongside so many talented, creative people.

Before I wrap up, I want to bring it back to Pixar for a moment and share a scene that, for me, is perhaps the most affecting scene in any Pixar movie – Jessie’s memories in Toy Story 2.

Edited by Edie Ichioka, David Ian Salter and Lee Unkrich, this sequence is a masterclass in visual storytelling. It’s perfectly paced and filled with smart little touches – as the song When She Loved Me narrates Jessie’s progress from a beloved toy, to a forgotten and discarded one. It completely reframes Jessie’s character for the rest of the film, and there’s not a dry eye in the house.

That’s as good as it gets for me.

Read the interview with Lee Unkrich here!


Mark Gilleece is an editor whose credits include animated shows for Apple TV+, Amazon Prime and the BBC. He’s also worked on several well-received live-action shorts.

Back to Spotlight