Session Two: Editing and Continuity
Wait...doesn't editing come last? Why are we starting HERE?!
We're starting with editing, because ultimately, everything is destined for the editing room. During our shoot, we gather great ingredients; editing is where we cook the meal. If you can understand what happens in editorial, then everything we cover after this will make much more sense.
1) A Little Context
- The Department You'll Probably Never Meet
- No one wants to see the editor on set - it's almost always bad news when he or she makes the trek to set.
- As a result, you'll probably never meet the editor or assistant editors, but they'll know everything about you and your performance.
- Their passion is to make your performance shine.
- Editing as a Remote Collaboration
- Editing is a conversation, which the actor is part of without even being aware of it.
- We work with you on your performances, continue to build them using what you've given us.
- Multiple takes with variations give us ability to enhance and develop what you've done -- and they also give us new ideas about where the story could go.
- Donal and how he changed The Red Machine with a single look that wasn't even in the finished movie.
- What We Think About When We Edit
- It all comes back to the story.
- "Write like a director, direct like an editor, edit like a writer."
- Quentin Taranatino: ”The final draft of a script is actually the first cut of the movie, and the final cut of the movie is the last draft of the script.”
- Why Donal's look isn't in The Red Machine (and why dropping that scene had nothing to do with his performance).
- There are actors who protect themselves and deliver the exact same performance take after take.
- We love a rich palette of choices from which to draw.
- A mentor told us: The best actors are often not very good in a lot of their takes, BECAUSE THEY'RE TAKING RISKS.
- Can't advise you whether you should trust or not.
2) The Mechanics and Environment of Editing
A Brief History of Editing Technology
Who's in the editing room, and what's their world like?
- Scissors and razor blades. (The era when most editors were women.)
- Moviola -- Originally devised for at-home viewing of movies, like a Victrola for movies; but they were too expensive, so only 20 were sold -- and then its inventor realized it would be more useful for the motion picture industry. (The first customer was Douglas Fairbanks.)
- "Here you go, alligator, please don't eat my film..."
- Flatbeds -- KEM and Steenbeck
- Pre-history: CMX 600 (1971), LucasFilm EditDroid, Laser Edit, EditFlex
- Avid -- Hardware based, and really, really expensive.
- Apple Final Cut - Software. Democratization of editing, and the fire that Apple lit under Avid.
- "Apple doesn't care about you..."
- Other systems: Lightworks (Schoonmaker), Adobe Premiere.
- Concerns about digital
- Mental processing that occurs between decision and cut.
- Judging performances destined for a big screen while watching on a small one.
- Watching the movie on a big screen -- Projection.
- Hold-outs: Michael Kahn and Steven Spielberg (until Tin Tin).
- Editor, assistant editor(s), sometimes a post-production supervisor, who comes and goes.
- Massive contraction from the circus of production -- Darkened room, quiet. Some directors love it, some directors hate it.
- Old days: Assistants in the room. Main assistant at the editor's side, with clips in the trim bin. Other assistants working at benches, synching the previous day's work.
- Changes in the editing room because of the shift to digital:
- Assistant's job became more technical -- computer skills suddenly became important.
- Assistant editor moved out of the room, down the hall.
- "Where is the next generation of editors going to come from?"
- You'll see this same pattern in other departments -- editing just went digital soonest.
3) Editing a Scene
Our Moviola: Adobe Premiere
- What it looks like -- Still use the old editing metaphors of razor blades and film imagery.
- Walk through the interface -- Bin, Viewer, Canvas, Timeline.
Watching Raw Dailies
- Synching -- "Dual-system" or "double-system" sound.
- Why we banged that slate.
- Project organization: Still a "bin."
- Verna Fields (Jaws)
The First Cut
- What do they look like?
- What are we looking for?
A More Polished Version
- Thomas Stanford: "Not ROUGH cut...FIRST cut."
- "It's never as good as the dailes or as bad as the first cut."
Continuity, "The Line" and Size of Performance
- Body position.
- Eating, drinking, smoking.
- What does the script supervisor do?
Scaling performance to camera
- What is "the line"? And why can't we cross it?
- One metaphor: Think of the line as the proscenium of film.
- Another metaphor: Standing beside a table where two people are seated.
- A third metaphor: Standing beside two other people having a conversation.
- (USE THE METAPHOR THAT MAKES SENSE TO YOU!)
- Sometimes the line is crossed; sometimes that's on purpose, sometimes it's not.
- Fiddler on the Roof
- "Smaller, smaller, smaller...stop."
- The camera sees everything.
- Viewers also add their own emotions: The Kuleshov Effect
- Don't save your best work for the closeup.
- Next week: Lots more on what the camera sees!
The Last and Most Important Thought
Homework to do after this Session:
Pick a movie scene that you find especially fascinating, and draw a scribbled representation of every single cut. Can you figure out how many set-ups the editor used? Think about how the editing told the story emotionally, and how the the editor chose different sizes of shots over the course of the scene. (HINT: Pick a scene that you enjoy and would like to learn from, because we'll be returning to it repeatedly for other assignments!)
To Go Farther: