Introducing...the Editor or Don't Ignore that Little Person behind the Monitor

Reprinted from Student Filmmaker Magazine website

“The humbling truth is that the film is made in the editing room.”
Writer David Mamet introducing the editing Oscar for the 2002 Academy Awards ceremony

Introducing…the Editor
by Gael Chandler
Author, Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video

Filmmakers often hoist the camera and shoot their film or videotape but have little idea how to turn their hard, heartfelt effort into a completed show. They wonder what exactly an editor does to make the raw footage come together so smoothly and fluently. Let me demystify this last process, called editing, editorial, post production, or simply “post” for you.

If I had to sum up what I and other editors do, I would say that the editor is the architect of the show. Our building materials are the footage – long shots, wide shots, medium shots, close ups, over-the shoulders, inserts, raking shots, reverses, master shots, and two-shots. Our blueprint is the script or outline (for a non fiction show like a documentary). From these we create the architecture of the show with sound, dialogue, and the placement and duration of the shots. Like the architecture of a bridge, good editing conveys to the audience what they need to see, hear, and experience to get from the beginning of the show to the end.

To accomplish this architecture, since nothing in the film industry ever goes entirely according to script or outline, the editor plays several roles: magician, coach, and technician. Like a magician, the editor arranges and rearranges the shots to inform, manipulate, and entertain the audience. The editor coaches the director and/or the producer as to a show’s merits and demerits, cheerleading, counseling, leading, and prodding as needed to sculpt the best show possible. And, in today’s world, the editor must be savvy about choosing and operating the digital system that will produce the required finishing format (film, videotape, WEB file, CD, or DVD) and special effects in the most cost effective way.

To recap, the film industry is a world of magic and mundanity, networking and relationships, creativity and survival in which the editor plays a vital, vibrant role.

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