Movies Are Made in Edit Suites
When a movie ends the credits roll with a seemingly never ending list of names. It takes a lot of people to bring a film to life, no matter how big or how small. Filmmaking is a combination of many different skill sets borrowed from other crafts, but one is unique to film.
Acting comes from centuries of theater, cinematography has its roots in painting and photography, but the process of editing was born out of filmmaking.
Introducing a cut from one shot to another transformed films from simply being moving photographs to a new way to tell stories. Editing allowed filmmakers to build complex ideas and stir up different emotions, resulting in movies as we know them today.
The technical side of editing looks much different from the days of film, but the job of the editor remains the same; create meaning from the footage.
Whether it’s a movie, a documentary, or a commercial, the editor ends up with more footage than they have time to include. The production process often creates hundreds of hours of material for a full length movie. Audiences would not fill theaters weekend after weekend to watch uncut footage. It’s through editing that the footage is curated and assembled in a way that gives the footage greater context and a story takes shape.
The value of an editor isn’t that they know what buttons to push in a piece of software, but their ability to find and extract narratives within the footage. They have the ability to choose what to reveal and when, changing the experiences and emotions of the audience. Simply by changing the shot order can create curiosity or clarity.
The editing process is a series of creative decisions and its improbable two editors would choose the same exact path. The number of ways to cut even a simple scene is almost limitless. Knowing what paths to explore comes with practice and experience.
For this reason there’s a great weight to not neglect the editing process. The movie tends to change between the script and production, and one last time between production and post production. Editing is the last large rewrite and the way the story is told can be fundamentally changed and any story worth telling is worth being told well. Filmmaking is a collaborative effort among many storytellers but film wouldn’t have stories to tell if not for editors.