Books On Film Editing – Part 2

More Books on Film Editing

A while back I listed my ‘Top 5 Books on Film Editing‘. Since then I’ve read a few more and thought I’d list them here. There really is a wealth of great material on film editing out there when you know where to look so thanks to all who recommend some good reads!

UPDATE – Check out even more great books on film editing in Part 3.

Cut to the Chase – Sam O’Steen

Sam O’Steen was an editing giant back in the 70’s working with directors like Mike Nichols and Roman Polanski, cutting films (to name a very few) like The Graduate, Cool Hand Luke, Rosemary’s Baby and Catch-22. In this book Cut To The Chase – Forty Five Years of Editing America’s Favourite Movies Sam’s wife Bobbie O’Steen talks him through his career, with plenty of behind the scenes insights and anecdotes.

The book is written as one long conversation and makes for some engrossing and entertaining reading. Editor biographies are few and far between and this is definitely one of the most up close and personal I’ve come across.

Buy on | Buy on

In The Blink of an Eye – Walter Murch

Pretty much a classic film editing book written by Walter Murch, first as an essay and then expanded in this 2nd edition. Murch’s take on film editing is often more metaphysical than technical (although he is that too) and In The Blink of an Eye addresses the fundamental question of ‘why do cuts work?’. The main theory from Walter here is that the eyes blink when the brain’s thought changes, like a full stop at the end of a sentence. So if good actors are immersed in their performance, cuts will come just before they blink.

Art of the Guillotine has an interesting post on some of the history behind Blink and even a pdf download of the original introduction from Australian editor Ken Sallows who first transcribed the lecture on which this book is based and got it to publication. Without Ken there would be no book.

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The Visual Story – Bruce Block

By far and away the most technical of all the books listed here (and not strictly a book on film editing) The Visual Story provides a critical introduction to many of the visual structures subtly at work in a films fabric.

You’ll learn how to structure visuals as carefully as a writer structures a story or a composer structures music. Understanding visual structure allows you to communicate moods and emotions, give your production unity and style, and most importantly, find the critical relationship between story structure and visual structure.

Bruce Block, a producer on many successful Hollywood films and a lecturer at the University of Southern California, has written a phenomenally detailed breakdown of all the visual elements at work in film – Space, Line and Shape, Tone, Colour, Movement, Rhythm – revealing the hidden structures at work in every film and how to use them to tell your story more effectively.  This is definitely a ‘read for study’ kind of book, but it really is a must read for anyone working in film who wants to take their craft seriously.

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The Invisible Cut – Bobbie O’Steen

The second book in this list from Bobbie O’Steen (wife of film editor Sam O’Steen) The Invisible Cut – How Editors Make Movie Magic is sort of like film editing school theory in a book. There are a few short chapters on editing fundamentals like cheating time and knowing the visual rules like not crossing the line but the bulk of the book is a genre by genre breakdown of some key sequences, cut by cut, from films like Chinatown, Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, Rear Window, The Graduate and many more.

Although this makes for some interesting reading and although the film stills do a fairly decent job of conveying the action (watching the scenes would definitely help) there is only a small amount of insightful critique per scene into why the cuts create the effects they do – or maybe its just that when its explained so clearly it just seems obvious…(?) So possibly a book more for the beginner editor, or one moving into a specific narrative genre for the first time than a seasoned professional, but good reading none the less.

Buy on | Buy on


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