Books on Film Editing – Part 3
Reading books, especially on film editing, is one of my favourite things to do. If you’ve been tracking with my blog for any length of time you’ll hopefully have seen a few of the posts I’ve written up on things like 5 Books on Colour Grading or 5 Books for Freelance Creatives, 5 Books on Storytelling etc.
In this post I’ve pulled together 5 more great books for film editors to read to improve their craft, but they’d be a valuable read for anyone interested in editing in general. Check out Books on Editing Part 1 and Part 2
First Cut 2 – More Conversations with Film Editors
This is a brilliant book. Gabriella Oldham’s sequel, nearly two decades after the famous First Cut – Conversations with Film Editors (see below), is a great read for any editor looking to learn more about the working life of professional film editors toiling in many different styles and genres.
“While editing is highly complex, it is at it’s core an intensely human process, shared by all editors across time and space. In a daring and precarious [technological] era, it was a comfort to know that the person of the editor had remained unscathed by technology, while also becoming all the more powerful and creative because of it.”
In First Cut 2 – More Conversations with Film Editors you can savour 12 in-depth interviews with editors whose credits include Star Wars, The Blindside, Bobby, True Romance, S.W.A.T and many, many more. What I love about conversational books (and there are three in this post) is that it helps to make you feel like you’re right there in the room with the editor, soaking up their wisdom and insight first hand.
“I’m not a big arguer in the cutting room because I think there’s no right or wrong, as I’ve said before. You’ve got to try it and trust that the director will turn around and say, “You’re right,” once they’ve seen it. Or you turn around and say, “You’re right, that’s so much better.” It becomes an instinct after a while of knowing what works.” – Emma E. Hickox
A fantastic read to absorb one chapter at a time and use to improve your editing instincts.
Cutting Rhythms – Shaping The Film Edit
Karen Pearlman’s book Cutting Rhythms provides a rare opportunity to delve deeper into the intricacies of the rhythmic side of editing. Originally her PHD thesis, the book investigates what’s really happening during the editorial process with regards to how the editor shapes the structure and rhythm of the film.
“A film is like a living body in that it has physical movement, emotional movement, and changes in circumstances or events all occurring, balancing, being assimilated, and working in an cause-and-effect relationship with one another almost all of the time. The editor, who shapes the film’s rhythms … knows that there is not much life in a film without all three rhythms counterpointing, energising, and shaping each other.”
The chapters on the physical, emotional and event rhythms all include detailed case studies with films like The Godfather, Goodfellas and The Hours and the rest of the book is peppered with recent examples from film and television, which helps to connect the theory to scenes you can remember.
It’s a fascinating read for any film editor serious about gaining a better understanding of the subtle elements at play in the heart of their craft. It’s also a vital chance to read about a side of film editing, which is covered far less often than the technical ‘how-to’ side of being a film editor, yet is fundamental to creating successful edits.
Conversations with Wilder – Cameron Crowe
I originally read this book when I was a kid and it really drew me into the brilliant work of both Billy Wilder and Cameron Crowe. Another conversational book, it is a write up of the two directors talking through Wilder’s work in a fun and personal style. Although not strictly focused on film editing per say, it is a brilliant portrait and window into the work of a legendary filmmaker, that will inform your craft in a thousand ways.
Conversations with Wilder provides both an excellent overview of the entire filmmaking process from writing to screening as well as some great inside stories of the golden age of Hollywood filmmaking. It also includes some great insights on editing too.
“CC: I haven’t quite figured out how you were able to edit all those movies while still filming them in such quick succession.
BW: Quickly. That’s the only way to cut them. There is no other way. The Apartment was done in a week.”
Cutting a 5 time Oscar winning film in a week! (They were cutting as they shot, but still!) What I love about this book is that there is a real benefit to looking at today, with the eyes of yesterday. On your next project try to think: if I only had a week to cut this, what choices would I have to make now?
In summary, this book is a real gem and well worth a read.
First Cut – Conversations with Film Editors
The first book from Gabriella Oldham is now something of a classic. First published in 1992 First Cut Conversations with Film Editors is a blistering 23 interview compilation, featuring interviews with Carol Littleton, Bill Pankow, Anne V. Coates, Tom Rolf, Alan Heim and many more.
“It’s amazing what you can get away with. I know the things I do in the cutting room: flop shots, make people look the other way, make action go backwards, make jump cuts in the middle of the film and have things scoot out of the way. Things I never would have though of doing years and years ago because I thought that the film, and there the negative, was inviolate. You couldn’t do things like that. Now I do it without even thinking about it.”
It’s a brilliant read with a vast amount of (now) vintage wisdom that of course still applies to the craft of editing today, even if many of the technological references are to KEM’s and Moviola’s and even VHS tape (ugh!).
If you pick up either volume of First Cut books you’ll be sure to enjoy the other, so you may as well get both. As there is so much to digest in each interview it’s definitely worth taking them a chapter a time.
Concrete Wedding Cake
Although I’ve not yet read John Heath‘s Concrete Wedding Cake: What I Learned About Motion Picture Editing and Other Stuff, it looks like an intriguing read.
Recommended to me via Twitter (I think, I can’t find the tweet!) Concrete Wedding Cake has the air of a self-published book about it (from the view of Amazon’s look inside feature and the cover design) although the reviews (2) do seem positive.
[Heath] explains dozens of practical tricks of the trade in an easy-to-understand way. I’ve been an editor for 30 years and I wish I had this book in my library when I started my career. If you’re serious about working as an editor, or just want a fun read about the entertainment industry, this is the book for you.
Granted that sounds like the kind of review a marketing person might write but sometimes in life it’s worth taking a few gambles here and there. I’ll be grabbing a copy of this book, just to see what an editor with Heath’s ’30 years of frontline experience’ has to say. In doing so I’ll (hopefully) discover some more tips and tricks to further my own editing craft. Why not give it a chance for yourself?
If you think there is a book on film editing (or any other topic) that I really must read then please hit the comments section below and let me know!