Learning Film Editing – Insights From Film Editors

Learning Film Editing From Film Editors

Learning more about film editing from talented film editors is one of my favourite things to do. Finding videos, articles and interviews with working film editors on how they go about solving the uniquely movable puzzle that is film editing is always time well spent.

Fortunately there is a wealth of great material out there, which I’ve rounded up into one place for some easy viewing.

Editing Hollywood Blockbusters

Anchorman 2 editor Brent White discusses his work on the film and his approach to editing ensemble comedy.

Gravity Editor Mark Sanger is interviewed by the chaps at Stackpod (2 film fans and friends) about his work on the film for over an hour. You can stream it online or download it here. For more on the making of Gravity, check out this post.

Dan Lebental is interviewed on the ever excellent Craft Truck, about his film editing career, working with director Jon Favreau and much more including Spielberg playing him the ukele.

The process of making a movie is a journey of discovery, and those people who would sit in this chair and tell you everyone knows what they are doing before hand and it all  just comes together are telling you a big, big fat lie. – Dan Lebental

Editing The Hunger Games

Editing the hunger games catching fire

Film editor Alan E. Bell (500 Days of Summer, The Amazing Spiderman) has been interviewed quite a bit about his work on the ever growing franchise of Hunger Games films, which is a great opportunity for other editors to learn more. One of the main take-aways from these interviews is the importance of mastering simple VFX techniques to improve performances. For more on that, check out this previous post.

When I was a fledgling editor, notes kind of scared me. The more I edit, the more open I’ve become. We might not necessarily agree on how to get to the end, but we all want to make the best movie we can, whether you’re a studio executive, a VFX supervisor, a cinematographer, a make-up artist or a grip. It doesn’t matter who you are; if you have an opinion about the movie, I want to know about it, so I can learn from it.

 Debra Kaufman from Creative Cow has a very good interview with Alan about the challenges of  working on a franchise, handling all the VFX work and protecting great performances. Studio Daily also has a strong interview with some really good Avid-VFX workflow details, as well as insights on how Alan used his VFX strengths to advance his career.

If I had a take and I need someone to look in a certain direction and they don’t, I’ll cut their head off of another take where they are looking in that direction and paste it on. It’s all invisible—nobody can ever tell that I’ve done it. And that’s all because of that Fusion-Avid workflow.

Post Magazine also has an interview with Alan, with a few extra interesting tidbits about his personal editing set up.

My system is a little bit unique. On that movie I started working on a 24-inch HD Cintiq tablet, which is a monitor that you can draw on. I used that, and I started using a gaming pad, instead of a keyboard, because I wanted my left hand to be right next to the monitor where I was drawing with my right hand. I’ve used a projector for some time now, so my room is very much like a screening room.

In episode of 9 of Going Postal the team interview Alan on numerous topics plus more on ergonomics in the edit suite. Filmmaker Magazine has a short write up of recent Boston Creative Pro User Group meeting in which Alan took questions from local editors.

As a group he said that editors are the least open to change, which is a surprise given they are tasked with making changes all day long. This was particularly his experience in the transition from film to digital.

And lastly if you wanted to know how to re-create the Hunger Games fiery logo then this tutorial from Red Giant TV will teach you how.

Editing Wolf of Wall Street with Scorsese

Editing Wolf of Wall Street

Director Martin Scorsese and film editor Thelma Schoonmaker’s latest collaboration is the energetic (and NC-17 rated) The Wolf of Wall Street, which sets records for the most uses of the F-bomb (506) and features some pretty hard-core content. Oliver Peters interviewed Thelma on the cutting the film, which weighs in at 3 hours long but apparently doesn’t drag for a minute.

“I enjoyed working on it because of its unique humor, which no one but Scorsese expected. It’s highly entertaining. Every day I’d get these fantastically funny scenes in dailies. It’s more of an improvisational film like Raging Bull,Casino or Goodfellas. We haven’t done one of those in awhile and I enjoyed getting back to that form.”

DP/30 has an excellent interview with Thelma on editing The Wolf of Wall Street (her 17th with Scorsese spread over 47 years), editing it down and the journey from the first cut to the release print. Fantastic viewing.

Update: Collider Magazine has a very enjoyable interview with Thelma, covering Wolf of Wall Street, switching to digital editing, working with the MPAA and more…

So it was a different rhythm than most of our films.  It was this rush and then stop, and then rush and then stop.  But I’m hoping most people go with it.  So that was a little bit of work to try and get the rhythm right.  And the improvisations of course were wonderful to work with and they’re very hard because they don’t match always, but I love that so it wasn’t a negative struggle or anything.  It was just a lot of hard work.

Update: Paul Thomas Anderson Interviews Scorsese on Wolf of Wall Street. Thanks to Nathalie from Mentorless.com for this great find. In the first part the video kicks in at around the 4 minute mark.

This 13 minute vintage film is a pretty great insight into Thelma Schoonmaker and Scorsese’s editing room life, replete with rewinding Moviola’s and fluffy dogs.

Again, Nathalie from Mentorless.com also points to this great 30 minute interview, on the craft of film editing at Rochester’s Film Festival. You’ll have to watch it on Vimeo though, thanks to some unfortunate sharing settings.

Thelma Schoonmaker in interview

Lastly this 14 minute interview with Thelma Schoonmaker on the restoration of The Red Shoes is also well worth a watch.

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