Lesson #4

September 22, 2014

Assignments for Next Week

Handouts for this Week

Lesson for This Week

Added Material


Examining The Sequence/The Plasticity of the Medium

The material that comes from the set is malleable. Ideas which work well on paper (and in the director's mind) are often less successful in the context of the completed footage. If the Rule of Threes has taught us anything it is that a given idea, image or character will change depending on what comes before and after it. Once a scene is completed, it must be viewed in the context of the entire film. So we need to be careful as to what each element says to us.

Two weeks ago we talked about the individual shot and its placement within a scene. Last week we saw how an individual scene can be structured and talked about the construction of beats within a scene and how they play off of each other.. Tonight we will discuss the individual scene and its placement within a sequence of shots. We will also discuss some of the tools that an editor has at his or her disposal to control these changes.

Throughout the beginning weeks of this semester we've been looking at how the arrangement of shots effects their perception (the infamous Rule of Threes). In looking at the classroom scene in HEATHERS last week we also saw the power of arranging and rearranging individual scenes.

Tonight, we will take a look at a problem, and a series of solutions, involving the arrangement of an entire sequence of scenes from the movie JUST LOOKING (this link is to the Sony Classics site, the picture to the left links to the Internet Movie Database listing, like nearly all of the poster images I use on the site) which, I cut for Sony and director Jason Alexander. In it, Lenny needs to say goodbye to his Uncle Phil before he leaves to go back to his home in the Bronx. The problem, in a nutshell, was that there were too many goodbye scenes in the film -- he said goodbye to his uncle Phil, to his friends, to Hedy, and he also had a long reconciliation scene with his stepfather which tied up the loose ends in that subplot. How could we minimize the repetitive feel of the goodbyes? Which moments were absolutely necessary? Which could be cut out?

There were also issues of believability. Lenny must forgive the two people -- Phil and Hedy -- who have disappointed him the most. The hurt is real. How can he rise above it and learn to forgive? And that is really his true arc in the film -- he starts off wanting to see two people make love, and he learns that love is really about something much different than the physcial act of love.

You must deal with these issues in most projects that you work on. Script sequences which seemed logical on the page, don't play the same way. Sometimes entire lines or scenes can be summed up in a single look from a character. Sometimes, a scene which had an intellectual purpose, is too redundant emotionally. And, often, a scene doesn't give the feeling or information that the writer had hoped it would. Solving these issues creatively, within the context of the rest of the film, is one of the greatest challenges (and joys) of editing.

I wanted to pass along an interesting quote from Richard Chew, about the editing of THE NEW WORLD for Terrence Malick. He did a preliminary cut on Xpress DV, then passed sequences along to other editors for refining. Malick also worked on an Avid to screen and select dailies. This quote gives a sense of how some editors work to facilitate communication between departments. [The full article is viewable on the Avid web site]

[Chew] explains, “Normally I use Locators on the timeline to reference where there’s a line replacement or where music or a sound effect would start. But we devised a system where Terry would use color-coded green Locators to indicate the sections of takes he liked. He doesn’t care for computers, but with this system, he'd just sit at the Avid [Xpress Pro] and punch away on a single key of the keyboard. If he really liked something, he’d just keep on punching until the green dots got so dense that the timeline looked black. It got to be a joke between us editors: ‘I guess Terry really liked that - it got into the black!’”


The following handouts will be given out this week. Click on the blue highlighted terms to get to the actual handouts.

This is original script continuity, right after we finished shooting, before we started working the film to solve its problems.
Matt Chesse talks about re-editing NEVERLAND (PDF File)
Matt Chesse has edited most of Marc Forster's films and, in this interview (excerpted from a longer interview in DVD Town available right here), he talks about what editing and re-editing is like for him. Unlike me, he prefers not to be on the set so he can come to the footage clean. Remember, what I talk about is only what I believe and experience. The reason I hand out these interviews is because there are as many ways to edit as there are editors.
Kevin Tent talks about GIRL INTERRUPTED (PDF File)
Tent talks about the re-editing process during the cutting of GIRL, INTERRUPTED. Note, in particular, his discussion aboout how scenes are shortened and lost. Material which may be great is sacrificed for the greater good of the film.
Andrew Marcus talks about HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH (PDF File)
Marcus talks about the re-editing process and rearranging scenes. He also discusses the aspect of bringing style to a film and making the editing style consistent with everything else.

Assignment for Next Week

Re-edit the scene from BURN NOTICE
You will have gotten notes from me and the class about the scene. Re-edit. Also, remember, that now you are your second cut, you can play with the continuity or the dialogue.
Edit the footage from AND THE BAND PLAYS ON
You will be receiving footage from the HBO quasi documentary AND THE BAND PLAYS ON, but we are doing a different sort of assignment this week.
I will assign half of the partnerships to do a version where they create a story for the footage of their own design, and then edit to that story. I will assign the other half of you to do a version where you avoid any story altogether.

Added Material

(New page will open in a new window. Close it to return to this page.)

Favorite Films of Earlier 535 Classes
This is the list of fave films for the Spring 2000, Fall 2000, Spring 2001, Fall 2001, Spring 2002, Fall 2002, Spring 2003, Spring 2005, Spring 2006, and Fall 2007 classes. More food for the eye.
Non-Hollywood Favorite Films
This is a list of some well-respected, very interesting, films done out of the Hollywood style. Many of these films are hard to find.
Dede Allen Interview
Last semester, after one particular interesting class, I was asked about some of my favorite editors. Gerry Hambling is one and Dede Allen has to be another. This is the first part of a two part interview in the Editors Guild Magazine devoted to Dede, her process and her observations about the changes in the editing world. There are some wonderful comments about her thinking processes and the need to view your film as many times as necessary to know how to improve it.
Tim Squyres talks about editing CROUCHING TIGER (PDF File)
There were a number of challenges editing this superbly put together film, not all of them what you'd expect. Tim Squyres talks about the editing process on this film.

Though I've tried to accomodate other browsers THIS SITE IS DESIGNED FOR BEST USE WITH IE for the PC, SAFARI for the Mac, and FIREFOX for both the PC and the Mac. It also looks reasonably good on the iPhone. Lucked out on that!

All material, except where noted, ©1999-2013 by Norman Hollyn. Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Send me an e-mail at my office
Last Modified - October 15, 2013