What Does An Editor Do?

22 02 2008

Mark Helfrich, an accomplished editor himself (X-Men: The Last Stand , Rush Hour 2, Red Dragon, Scary Movie, etc.), does a video for Slate Magazine, which talks about what makes the five nominees for this Sunday’s Best Film Editing Oscar worth looking at. Those of you who edit for a living won’t find anything surprising here, but for those who don’t work in editing, or in the film business at all, will find some of this discussion quite interesting.

Of THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY, Helfrich takes a scene where Jean-Do, the paralyzed lead of the film, is watching a speech therapist. Because the film is shot, at that point, from the point of view of Jean-Do’s only good eye, every time the character blinks, the screen goes dark for a half a second. Helfrich notes that this enables the editor, Juliette Welfling, to cut from one take of this camera set-up to another (enabling her to stitch together the best complete performance from a number of performances) as well as to cut from one size shot to a tighter one.

There are some editors who believe that it is best to try and preserve one entire performance/take from a character. These editors will try and avoid editing from one performance to another. For other editors, myself included, all that we want is to preserve the feeling of a continuous performance. I don’t care if the performances come from 12 different takes, so long as they combine into one fluid performance. In fact, I assume that if the director printed a take, that it’s fair game for me to use.

I’ve worked with actors whose performance doesn’t vary from take to take, and others who tried something different each time, and all of the variations in between. As an editor, we are always trying to get a performance to tell a story, and these variations are sometimes helpful and sometimes unhelpful. Regardless of where Helfrich falls on the one performance/one take question, his discussion of what the five nominated films have done in their approaches to editing is informative and well worth a viewing.

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3 responses

23 02 2008
Studio Daily Blog » A look at the Best Editing Oscar nominees

[…] Thanks to Norman at Hollyn-wood for the find. […]

25 02 2008
Why “The Bourne Ultimatum” deserved the “Best Film Editing” Oscar « view from the cutting room floor

[…] Hollyn, an accomplished editor and Associate Professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, brought to my attention a short video made by fellow editor Mark Helfrich discussing the Oscar nominees, with clips from […]

26 02 2008
Les Oscars… « Au royaume de la salle 7

[…] Lien (gracieuseté de Norman Hollyn) d’une petite capsule vidéo sur Slate.tv à propos des monteurs nominés aux […]

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