Insights on The Craft of Film Editing

Insights on The Craft of Film Editing

To me the craft of film editing is every part of the job that’s non-technical. It’s the reasoning behind the creative decision making, the diplomacy of managing expectations, egos and emergencies and it’s the artistry of creating filmmaking magic in challenging circumstances. That’s what this post is all about.

Every Frame A Painting, a video essay series by Tony Zhou is more addictive and more essential viewing than pretty much anything else on the web. High praise? Maybe, but each and every one is a corker.

I’ve previously gathered ‘the best’ of Every Frame A Painting in this inspirational craft round up (along with many other gems), but his latest video, How Does an Editor Think and Feel? tackles the very essence of the craft of film editing – knowing when to cut – and it is excellent.

I don’t cut from what I call knowledge… I have to feel it. – Michael Kahn. has written up a post on great advice from Tony Zhou culled from a four-hour Ask Me Anything on Reddit.

Bring a film into Final Cut or Premiere or Avid, and just watch it backwards and forwards, muted and unmuted, B&W, colour. Watch for camera placement, movement, everything. After you do this for a while, you won’t need to bring the movie into Premiere, you can just do it on the fly.

The second most enjoyable video I’ve seen recently is this one from BAFTA Guru on how to kick-start your career in the film, TV or games industry.

Events that will Invest in Your Career

Sprocket Rocket Soho is a new venture spearheaded by BAFTA winning editor Mick Audsley, who is also a longtime guest/moderator at the always amazing Edit Fest London. Commercial’s editor James Rosen (who I interviewed previously about editing commercials here, and has a thoughtful blog here) tipped me off to Sprocket Rocket, which has recently launched and will be having it’s first event in London on the 7th June.

The digital world is rather isolated, and this will allow younger filmmakers and more experienced ones to trade thoughts, and also make older filmmakers accessible to the young. To show them that we are real people with the same worries and the same difficulties when making movies. – Mick Audsley

In essence Sprocket Rocket is fine way to meet other post-production professionals and build connections within the industry, which is often a very difficult thing to do. Mick was interviewed about his reasons for starting it in MovieScopeMag here. They’ve also created some excellent short videos packed with tips from assistant film editor Lucy Mitra.

Edit Fest London is an annual event run by the American Cinema Editors and is coming up quickly (June 25th) and will be well worth the investment of time and money in your creative career. I’ve really enjoyed being able to make it the past few years and I can’t recommend it enough as a rare opportunity to hear from top editors in the world of film and TV, sharing insights on their craft.

This year you can hear from a stellar line up of talented editors including Oscar winning editor Paul Hirsch. Pauls’s credits include the original Star Wars, and The Empire Strikes Back as well as Mission Impossible (1 and 4) and many many other huge films. Check out the full line up here.

The team behind Edit Fest have also worked hard to make it more affordable than ever this year, including a discounted group ticket. So grab some mates and get along!

For a good long taste of previous years, check out these extensive write ups:

Advice from Edit Fest London 2015 | Pro Tips from Edit Fest London 2015 | 5 Tips from Edit Fest London 2014Inside Edit Fest London 2014 |  Secrets of the Edit Suite – Edit Fest London 2013 |

Edit Fest LA 2012 | Edit Fest LA/NY/LDN 2012

Pro Advice on Starting an Editing Job

Editor’s Lounge hosted this excellent event on the ‘challenges and strategies’ for knowing how to prepare for a new project and bring it to the finish line.

It’s a fantastic discussion between Zac Arnold (Burn Notice, Empire and founder of Fitness in Post), Dan Lebantal (Iron Man, Elf, lots of Marvel movies) and Yvette Amirian (lots of US TV), and it’s moderated by editor and USC professor, Norman Hollyn. Both parts are well worth a watch for editors at any stage in their career.

When it gets to the point when you can make your first hard-core decision, which is always a cross roads – do I do this, or do I not to this. The scariest thing and the most powerful thing is to say no. Because if you say no, sometimes really good things come from it. They want you more, they know you’re serious. Or, they just don’t care and they move on… but the no’s were always as important as what I said yes to. – Dan Lebantal

Norman has also written an excellent book The Film Editing Room Handbook, now in it’s 4th edition and centred on the topic of being an assistant film editor.

For a great write up of some practical tips for how to actually get a job by performing well in the interview, check out this recent blog post from Larry Jordan.

I want to share my thoughts on job hunting, interviewing and finding your next job.

Here’s my key point: An employer, or client, is someone with a problem they need you to solve; and they are trying to decide if you are the right person to solve it. Therefore, define yourself as someone who helps solve problems, not simply as a job function.

For example, “you enable companies to communicate more effectively with their customers;” rather than “you edit videos.”

Lessons in Film Editing Fundamentals

A knowledge of the fundamentals of film editing; the cuts, transitions, core techniques and basic filmmaking principles that set cinema apart as an art form, are all essential for a career as a film editor. The following videos will give you a cliff-notes-crash-course in the essentials.

Hitchcock master of cinemaThroughout these video essays there are innumerable references to Hitchcock’s filmography. If you’ve not seen his work, you’re missing out on one of THE greats of cinema. So go buy either this Blu-ray of the Hitchcock Essentials or this Masterpiece Collection and get watching.

In this lively lesson in the history of film editing, from CineFix, will get you up to speed on the first iteration of every editing technique and the concepts behind them, that are common place in our cinematic language today.

In this second episode from CineFix you get their run down of “the most memorable editing moments of all time” which features many of the classics you’ll have seen at film school. But it makes for an entertaining few minutes of editing history from the past century of cinema.

Walter Murch is one of the most thought-out editors to write on the subject of editing and highly respected within the industry not only for his insights but his artistry. In this short video he describes his ‘Rule of Six’, the criteria behind making any cut, which he originally compiled in his excellent book In The Blink of an Eye.

Here is a quick link to every post featuring Walter Murch on the blog!

Gio, of the excellent, has put together a really great post on both Murch’s rule of six and further editing principles from Edward Dymtryk, which provides a good education on what editors think makes for a good cut.

Learning how to edit takes time, and I believe a lot is learned through a trial and error system (thankfully the NLE facilitate this approach). There are two sets of rules (or guidelines) that are easily digested and can be quickly shared to the aspiring editor.

In this 10 minute video essay from Rocket Jump Film School and editor/director Joey Scoma, you can take a visual tour of all the different types of cuts and transitions a film editor has at their disposal.

In this second, shorter tip from Rocket Jump Film School there is a good tutorial on the importance of finessing your edits, based on what the character’s eyes are doing, to make your cuts as fluid as possible.

In another great video essay from Rocket Jump Film School, you get a great lesson on how best to use close ups and knowing when ‘not’ to cut. It’s great that there is a real recognition of the importance of directing and cinematography in the shaping of the edit (Jaws).

In this video essay from Film Theorist’s Frame by Frame series, you can learn about the filmmaking techniques that both Alfred Hitchcock and Alejandro González Iñárritu used to create a seamless looking feature film that appears to have no edits at all.

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