The Beauty Behind Film Editing

Posted September 4th, 2013 at 2:16 pm.

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This post is part a series of blog posts by the Tri-Co DH summer fellows.   Anna Bullard-Werner (HC ’15) is interning at Parent Earth 

“Where did that take go?!” I ask myself.  ”I remember there being a take that felt a lot better than the one in the final project!” I grew up working as a child actor and luckily have been able continue to act professionally to this day. From an actor’s perspective I already knew a bit about the power different cuts can have. I would notice not seeing certain shots I liked of myself and would wonder where on earth they were.  While I knew that many factors influence a scene, I had never really given these other factors much thought until confronted with them during my internship. This summer was spent behind the camera, and by interning with a film editor, my perspective on what it means to make a film more nuanced.

Thanks to the generous support of the Tri-Co Digital Humanities Fund, I was granted the chance of interning with Bryn Mawr alumna and independent film maker Sarah Schenck this summer. One of the many benefits of the internship was my tremendous improvement of editing skills. Not the type of editing done in the publishing world, but film editing: selecting shots, assembling, cutting and tweaking them.

Often times a film editor is given hours of raw footage and has to distill this into a single sequence that is a tiny fraction of the raw material. While I had a little bit of experience from film classes that I had taken at Bryn Mawr, the internship advanced my capabilities with programs such as FinalCutPro or iMovie.

A scene is filmed through many shots and which often requires many takes. The job of the editor in the end is to chose moments of all of the different takes and to string them together into a coherent scene. A film editor has to sift through the material and sort out the shots that may be unusable due to sound, lighting or cinematography. She has to make sure the takes that are chosen fit with the story line or vibe being pursued in the scene as well as ensure  continuity with the other shots. While a lot of these factors are considered during the shoot, editors work heavily on these elements during post-production.

In addition to the technical aspects, I was surprised by the amount of creativity in the job of an editor. Film editing is often referred to as the invisible art because when it is well-practiced, the viewer can become so engaged that he or she is not even aware of the editor’s work. A film editor doesn’t simply put pieces of a film together, cut out technical difficulties or cut off slates. She has to make creative decisions on what to emphasize in the story. She ties together plot, dialogue, music, pacing, and actors’ performances to effectively “re-imagine” the film to create the whole.

The internship really showed me what power and also what beauty lies behind the work of a film editor. I was able to overcome a lot of my hesitations and technical difficulties with the programs that are used, so that I could actually  start focusing on real story telling. For me personally, I am still a ways a way from perfecting the art of editing but the internship helped me improve these skills immensely and made visible a lot of the details that constitute the making of a film. In a very tangible way,  the internship has given me a skill set and the tools to do what I love.

Filed under: Anna Bullard-Werner,TriCoDH Fellows by jenrajchel

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