Saturday, April 12, 2008

On Film Editing

I've been reading a good book lately. A real page turner. Well, at least it is to me. It's "On Film Editing" by the film director Edward Dmytryk, most famous for directing The Caine Mutiny and 50 other movies. He started out as a film editor, and has some insights that are as relevant today as when he wrote the book 25 years ago. Here are some of his pearls of wisdom.

Dmytryk makes a distinction between a cutter and an editor. A cutter is a technician who merely assembles the pieces, mostly in the order they were shot. An editor is a thinking, creative person who carefully juxtaposes cuts to obtain the greatest audience involvement, to allow the viewer to be caught up in the mood, to arouse the viewer's own emotional responses. And a good editor senses the viewer's attention span, holding a shot long enough to deliver its desired effect, but never so long that interest fades, and never repeatng a clever shot.

Dmytryk notes:

o Film is the most dynamic of all the arts and is the most popular art form in the world.
o The development of film technique has been primarily the development of editing.
o Without film editing, the best movie would be only a photographed stage play.
o Film editing is the art of filmmaking.
o By means of a "cut", a filmmaker can fly through space and time, and can intensify emotions.
o A film's first viewing should evoke an emotional reaction.
o Substance first, then form.
o Reactions are essential to a good movie. Cause and effect, action and reaction.
o The "human situation" is what good films are all about and technical skill counts for nothing if it is used only to make films which have little to do with humanity.

An editor...

o ...Improves a film by eliminating redundancies, by creative manipulation of the film's pace and the timing of reactions.
o The finer the editor's technique, the less noticeable is his contribution.

Here are some movies that are beautifully edited. Through careful arrangement of images and sounds, they create strong emotions such as joy or sadness, desire or revulsion, compassion or anger, confidence or fear, triumph or despair. And they make you feel that way every time you watch them. They make you care.

Apollo 13
Citizen Kane
The Color Purple
Field of Dreams
The Godfather
High Noon
It's a Wonderful Life
Joy Luck Club
Mr. Holland's Opus
Ordinary People
Rear Window
The Verdict
You've Got Mail


Liene at Blue Orchid Designs said...

interesting notes. I like his point about evoking an emotional reaction on the first viewing. I rarely watch a film more than once, and the ones I do are one that moved me on some level.

J Sav said...

Thanks for posting, Liene. I totally agree - movies are about emotions.

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