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Editing

As an actor, I'm really interested to learn more about the editing process and wondered if anyone out there could give me the opportunity to watch an editing session - not documentaries though as it needs to be people acting. Thank you!

  • There's nothing more tedious than watching an editor edit, unless one is also actually creatively engaged in the production. A minute per day of finished production is quite normal. So imagine the incremental and repetitive processes over several hours that need to be carried out to achieve that minute; even if it's a speedy several minutes. Unless one has a good grounding in the process, understanding an editors purpose purely by watching the screens but without an editors commentory as to what's going on is likely to be arcane enough to make any worthwhile learning quite a challenge. Learning much from looking over an editors proverbial shoulder is likely to be uncomfortable for both.

    Properly capable editors will have spent a lot of time honing their skills. I doubt that sitting in an edit suite for a day or two would achieve anything like as much as simply analytically viewing films and noting how each shot is cut in terms of timing pace, continuity, sequencial structuring etc. If one counts the seconds between cuts and transitions it's likely that there'll be as many as twenty edits per minute; that's twenty creatively and technically demanding editing operation per minute of finished film, think about it; that's before concidering the technical process of driving the edit machine itself, managing the file system, grading pictures and sound, over laying and under laying the inumerable audio and visual artifacts that make the difference between a good film and a bad one, that can transform a weak performance into a compelling one.

    Of all the skills involved in film making it's in the editing that one learns how to do everyone else's job. It's in the edit suite that everyone else's strengths and weaknesses is revealed. A great editor can sometimes save a bad film.

    Unless you find a very generous editor, you won't learn much from merely sitting in on a session.

    3 months ago
  • Thanks for taking the time to respond John, and I very much get your point about it being of more interest if one was creatively engaged in the production - I shall aim for this!

    3 months ago
  • I think she wants to see editing from an actor's perspective, John. Given that, a week or so would do her a world of good, especially if she's done a lot of stage acting.

    In my experience, good screen actors give the editor something to cut on. It could be something as simple as a tiny head tilt or the shift of a shoulder. Or how one moves depending on the frame. Or the lack continuity screwing the editor. Often, with inexperienced or bad actors, you're not cutting for character, but cutting around a performance to make the scene play as best you can. That can be as simple as an actor not holding a gaze for a beat longer before she looks down at her cup of coffee.

    Given that, I think she'd learn more watching some bad film being edited than a good one. Regardless, I think she'd benefit and learn at least something. And early on, it's important for actors to watch themselves in films they are in, and why an editor may have cut them the way they did. For example "Oh, I should have exited the frame a bit slower on that one."

    2 months ago
  • Lovely to see you back Dan. You were missed. Pity that Maria can't pop over the pond and spend some time with you in the cutting room. It'll need a generous editor to make the experience meaningful with a running commentary.

    2 months ago
  • You've hit the nail on the head Dan! I would like to 'provide' the director with those little gems that help make a film more interesting/tell the story, and it is so important to understand acting within frame size. In one short film I was in I was sent unedited material prior to the final version. This sparked my curiosity as to why certain shots had been chosen over others - some of the reasons were obvious but others not so. It has been mentioned to me on many occasions that actors should sit in on editing sessions to help them improve/understand their screen acting. Patrick Tucker's Secrets of Screen Acting and David Penn's 'Naked Face' workshops also advise this. John, it would take a generous editor but for most of the time I would just sit quietly in the background observing and listening! Thank you both.

    2 months ago