"Things that came so naturally to the other children, such as basic math, writing and catching a ball seemed to elude and confound me," explains Harwood. "I was able to scrape by for the majority of my school years until the age of 17, when I was faced with a specifically important round of exams that I failed so spectacularly that my current school refused me the possibility of retaking them."
Originally born in Northamptonshire, England Oliver Harwood was diagnosed with dyslexia and, as he puts it, "a nice hearty case of ADD" early on in life, making it an extreme challenge for him to stay focused on any subject for longer than a few minutes…That is until he found his true calling as a film editor.
After failing his A Level exams at 17, Harwood began his summer break with a bleak outlook. Concerned about the realistic possibilities his future held in terms of a career, Harwood recalls, "That summer was understandably an unhappy one to say the least. It was clear that traditional education was something that was not going to work out for me."
However, it was during that summer that Oliver Harwood and a friend discovered Harwood's father's video camera, a tool that would soon lead Harwood to discover a future of endless possibility.
"We set about filming each other in a collection of what we considered to be funny sketches," explains Harwood. "But it wasn't until I realized you could load the footage into a computer and place things on a time line in a program called Pinnacle that something in me sparked."
Those funny sketches sparked something quite extraordinary – a love for cutting films, and undeniable natural talent:, two things that would soon fuse together providing Harwood with a successful career as an editor for award- winning films.
"Looking back on it, I think was the first time I had spent a week doing anything and not gotten bored or frustrated," admits Harwood. "Then a month went by and eventually I had cut everything we had shot into a 10 minute collection of skits and all I could think about was what I was going to do for the next collection."
Even from his earliest professional work as the editor of the film Apartment Eleven, it was clear that Harwood was going straight to the top of the film industry. Directed by Mark Player, Apartment Eleven was chosen as an Official Selection of the 2011 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and the 2011 London Independent Film Festival.
A dystopian Kafkaesque story, Apartment Eleven centered on a writer suffering from a paralyzing stint of writer's block that was compounded by his increasingly noisy neighbors ultimately leading him to go insane.
Not only did Harwood edit the film, but he also made huge contributions to the ending. After the film was shown to a test audience, the unanimous response from viewers was that the twist of the increasingly noisy neighbors being a figment of the main character's imagination was too predictable. The time for reshooting the ending had long past, but thanks to Harwood's ingenious creativity, the ending still got the make-over it needed to make Apartment Eleven a success.
"The solution to this conundrum was found by taking things that originally had been intended for other scenes and using them to create a new ending in which instead of the protagonist discovering an empty room, which he thought to contain his neighbors-- he finds another version of himself writing the story he has been living," recalls Harwood. "The film then shows a series of flashing images that quicken in pace in a effort to show the protagonist's reality is ripped apart as the film ends."
Harwood's ability to "feel" what shots and sequences are right for a film while discarding the rest allows him to test out multiple ways of cutting a film without getting attached to any one cut. This editing approach has served him extraordinarily well, especially when considering the colossal differences between the films he has worked on to date.
As the editor of Gala Goliani's film Red Rider, Harwood's adaptability and overall vision for what works for a specific genre was put the to the test. "This one proved to be quite a dramatic change of pace in terms of style and genre," Harwood says.
An action-packed thriller film set in a post-apocalyptic Christmas; Red Rider follows a woman named Adena as she plots to single-handedly take down a dangerous biker gang that wronged her.
"All the high production values and shootouts in the world can’t save a movie if the characters are flat and un-relatable," explains Harwood. "So when the action slowed down and the actors were given a chance to do their work, I was able to identify key moments in the performance that would help to build stronger and more fleshed out personalities… which is key to getting the audience on your side."
A testament to Harwood's talent as an editor, Red Rider was chosen as an Official Selection of the 2014 Sunset International Film Festival Los Angeles where it received an Honorable Mention, the Los Angeles New Wave Intl' Film Festival, where it received the awards for Best Cinematography and Best Actor, as well as the HollyShorts Film Festival, Cinema City International Film Festival, San Jose International Short Film Festival, Catalina Film Festival and others.
One of Oliver Harwood's other films, Share, is screening this week in Austin, Texas, as an Official Selection of the 2015 South by Southwest Film Festival, where it has already received the Special Jury Recognition Prize. He was also the editor of Contrapelo, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year and went on to win several awards at the Las Vegas International Film Festival, Los Cortos International Film Festival, Cine Gear Expo, and was a finalist at the BFI London Film Festival, as well as the films Mae & Ash, Solid Ground, Bad Jokes, Change to Spare, Worship and others.