Advertisement

Movie Mom

Movie Mom

What Does the Editor Do?

posted by Nell Minow

Ann Hornaday has a fascinating article in the Washington Post about the impact that an editor has on a film. You’ve heard the expression “the cutting room floor?” That comes from the days when film editors used real scissors and worked with the director to decide what scenes made it into the film and which were literally cut out.

But the editor does a lot more than determine which of several different takes will go into the final film. The editor shapes the story and gives it its rhythm and tone. The editor is the one who remembers what the audience knows and does not know. Hornaday writes about the way that editors inserted crucial information to help audiences follow the story that would not even register if you asked them afterward. Indeed, while some editing is flashy, even intrusive, the best editing registers only subliminally.

Advertisement

When Julia Roberts is trying to steal a top-secret medical formula in the crafty, corporate-espionage caper “Duplicity,” the audience needs to know why she’s suddenly on a different floor of a warrenlike office building. Hence, a brief shot of her running down some stairs.

That shot was requested by the film’s editor, John Gilroy, who also edited “Michael Clayton” (both films were written and directed by his brother Tony). It’s not uncommon, he says, for him to request certain scenes in the course of filming. “We’re always finding out what we need, and sort of embellishing and embroidering as we go along.”

What makes this article worthwhile is the specific examples, from legendary movie moments like the bravura single shot swooping into the nightclub in “Goodfellas” to the small, unobtrusive techniques that are as essential to movie story-telling as the performances and the script. The technology has transformed editing and scissors have given way to computers. But whether we notice the cuts or not, the role of the editor continues to be one of the most important and understanding what a difference that makes enriches our appreciation of film.

Advertisement

Those who want to learn more about the art of movie editing should read When The Shooting Stops … The Cutting Begins: A Film Editor’s Story by Ralph Rosenblum, a superb book with an illuminating discussion of how “Annie Hall’s” out-of-order structure made it so poignant and powerful.

  • jestrfyl

    One of the best edited sequences, which also illustrates the amazing art that is editing, is a dance sequence from “Fame”. The fun, energy, and emotional impact of the movie, the school, the actors, and “the students” all shows through brilliantly. (I truly doubt the remake will be up to the standard set by the original – largely in part because of the superb editing.) When I was into broadcasting (I have my BA in it) I thought the most critical task was the editors – it could make or flambe the shortest fluff piece or the longest serious journalism.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    A great example! The best editing is often very subtle but sometimes flashy editing can be thrilling!

Previous Posts

Tomorrowland's Inspirations
Brad Bird's gorgeously imagined "Tomorrowland" is not just inspired by an area in the original Disneyland, celebrating its 60th anniversary this week, it is a tribute to the sensationally imaginative work of the "imagineers" and artists who ...

posted 8:03:49am May. 22, 2015 | read full post »

Trailer: Unexpected with Cobie Smulders
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzq7dfZn31k Samantha Abbott ("How I Met Your Mother's" Cobie Smulders) is a dedicated and passionate teacher at an inner-city Chicago high school. Just as she is coming to terms with her school closing, ...

posted 8:00:48am May. 22, 2015 | read full post »

Tomorrowland
It begins with an argument. Frank (George Clooney) is trying to tell us the story. But he is repeatedly interrupted by someone we will learn is ...

posted 7:10:31am May. 22, 2015 | read full post »

I'll See You in My Dreams
Blythe Danner gives a performance of exquisite sensitivity in "I'll See You in My Dreams," the story of a lonely widow. She plays Carol, a ...

posted 5:55:53pm May. 21, 2015 | read full post »

Interview: Brett Haley, Writer/Director of "I'll See You in My Dreams"
Brett Haley wrote and directed "I'll See You in My Dreams," a bittersweet romance starring the luminous Blythe Danner as Carol, a widow ...

posted 3:12:21pm May. 21, 2015 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.