Film Editing

There are as many levels in the practice of this craft as there are practicing craftsmen. They range from the "mechanical" to the truly creative, and when modified by the skill and ingenuity which any particular cutter may possess, as well as the input of directors and producers, they present us with the possibility of […]

Who Cuts the Film ? (Film Editing)

Who, exactly, does edit the film. Usually, 110 single person, exactly. Although there have been a few notable exceptions, a good director always has the leading influence on the editing of his film, the value of that influence being proportional to his instinct for and knowledge of editing. An experienced producer can also have marked […]

Smooth Cutting—The Ideal (Film Editing)

Film is a deceptive art—in many ways. Its collaborative nature is axiomatic, yet more than in most art forms, that collaboration is hidden from the audience. In a good film, the whole will always be greater than the sum of its parts. Every honest filmmaker strives to make a film which so enthralls the viewer […]

The Cutter Begins (Film Editing)

At a purely technical level, each editor develops his own approach to his work, although that approach will most likely be a variation of one of those few which time and trial have proven to be the most efficient. Here, I will concentrate on the method which works best for me and which, naturally, is […]

You’ve Got to Have a Reason (Film Editing)

The first two basic rules of cutting are as follows: Rule 1. Never make a cut without a positive reason. Rule 2. When undecided about the exact frame to cut on, cut long rather than short.* Cuts should be conceived on the big screen, but they can be made only on the Moviola. To put […]

The Action Cut— and What Makes It Work (Film Editing)

Rule 3: Whenever possible, cut "in movement." The "action cut" is the first bit of cutting lore learned by every apprentice. Excluding cuts made at the beginnings and ends of sequences and self-contained scenes, cuts to reactions or responses, and cuts involving exchanges of dialogue, the cutter should look for some movement of the actor […]

Keep It Fresh and Fast with the Overlap (Film Editing)

Cutters, on the whole, are a conscientious lot, but inevitably some are ignorant, some are careless, and some are lazy. The first condition is lamentable, the second correctible, but the third is unforgivable. The lazy cutter cheats not only his director, his producer, and his employer, but he also cheats the viewer. A cutter who […]

Trying a Little Harder (Film Editing)

So far we have been considering action cuts made under perfect or nearly perfect conditions. But conditions are rarely perfect and not too often nearly perfect. A number of problems can raise their unattractive heads. Two scenes which ultimately will be cut together will often be shot on different days—sometimes weeks apart. Actors will have […]

Cutting Dialogue (Film Editing)

Good drama is never an essay, a lecture, or a straight narrative. It is always cause and effect, action and reaction, even when no physical activity is involved. A good dialogue scene is rarely a straight interchange of declarative lines or overt plot exposition, no matter how brilliantly written; it contains conflict, surprises, "twists," and […]

The Reaction Is What Really Counts (Film Editing)

John Wayne was wont to say, "I don’t act, I react." It was by no means an original phrase, and if it was meant as a self-assessment of his ability, he was shortchanging himself. At best, screen acting is a difficult art, whose subtleties often escape its critics; it demands great competence in all its […]