Instructor - Norman Hollyn

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Lesson #2

September 2, 2003

Added Material

Assignments for Next Week

Handouts for this Week

Lesson for This Week


Examining The Cut

NakedWhat makes an editor choose a closeup rather than a wider shot? What leads an editor to play a line of dialogue on the speaker vs. on the listener? What is an L-cut? Through our screening of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, AMERICAN BEAUTY and an analysis of a scene from NAKED we will be learning about shot layouts, values, overlaps and what really matters in the editing process. Hopefully we will gather knowledge about how to approach a scene from an editorial point of view.We will continue to emphasize the Rule of Threes. Don't forget it.

In NAKED, Mike Leigh's amazing look at a misanthropic characters on the edge of society, a brilliant but desperately unhappy man, we will get to look at a simple scene between two characters. Notice, using the Naked shot breakdown, exactly where Leigh chooses to cut from one shot to another. He often cuts in the middle of a line, rather than before or after it. The exact word that he cuts off of is important, because making a cut on a particular word will emphasize that word. Look at how his edits emphasize the underlying scene analysis -- the David Thewlis character is testing the Caitlin Catridge character. How smart is she? How far can he push her?

We will also take a look at two scenes -- the scene from AMERICAN BEAUTY that you received the script pages for last week. We will also be looking at a scene from SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. You can read the script page for this scene and think about about them in concert with the scene itself.

In AMERICAN BEAUTY try and perform a scene analysis. What is the scene about? What do we know about the Annette Benning character before the scene? What do we know about her afterwards? When does it change? Then, take a look at the differences between the scene as scripted and the American Beautyedited scene. How does the editing strengthen the message, the underlying analysis, of the scene?

Note how the sequence begins and ends, and how that style is different than the intervening scenes. How does this mirror the scene analysis (which I might venture a guess is about showing that this character, like the others that we have already met) is struggling to keep up appearances). We are set up to follow Carol (Annette Benning) through her day, we see her bravely try and sell her house, fighting off the depression forced on her by her failure, until she breaks down.

Once again, we are looking at how a scene analysis affects the editing of a scene. Notice the beats of the scene and see how the cutting style is changed around them.

In SAVING PRIVATE RYAN much has been made of the opening twenty minutes of the movie which is a high-impact, fast-cut look at a World War II battle. That's all well and good but, in my experience, once you put the issues of geography and clarity aside (not always an easy job but...) cutting heavy action scenes like that is easy compared to the simple character moments. We are going to take a look at the scene in which the mother is notified that three of her sons have died in battle, a scene in which not a word of dialogue is spoken and much of the impact of the scene (manipulative in a brilliantly typical Spielberg manner) is played in understated angles. Notice Spielberg's use of framing. The major emotional moment is delivered on the mother's back. Why do you think he chose to do it? Does it diminish the emotional power of the scene?

Note the image of the mom with the chaplain that I've got here on this page. It is an image which doesn't exist in the scene at all. We never see her from the front, once she begins to get the idea of what news the approaching car may bring her. What does the image of the mom crying give you that the reverse image doesn't? Which works better for you? Obviously, Spielberg chose to reveal her emotion by NOT showing her face, a choice which forces us to imagine what it must be like for her. However, not everyone will agree with this choice. Figuring out what choices you, as a filmmaker, would make is what makes for good editing choices.

We are also going to be choosing partners with whom you will be working for the first half of the semester.


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

NAKED Shot Breakdown
This is a line-by-line and shot-by-shot breakdown of the scene from Mike Leigh's NAKED that we will be examining in class today. Note how things change around the areas that we've identified as beats -- we move into closeups in one place and there are long overlaps to watch David Thewlis' reactions in a second place.
Sample Lined Script pages -- Lined Page and Notes Page (both in PDF format)
These pages, from the film JUST LOOKING (originally shot as CHERRY PINK) will give you an idea of how script pages are lined and how shooting information is provided by the script supervisor to the editing room personnel. Note that straight lines mean that the dialogue or action described in thes script is on camera. Squiggly lines mean that it is off camera for that shot.
Editorial Technique Flow Chart
This layout will break down how I approach every project, every scenes, every day's shoot, and every editorial choice and challenge. It's not just making the action match.
Log Line Examples
These are examples, both good and bad, of log lines culled from newspapers and other sources. For an article about log lines from SCREEN TALK on log lines click here.
Walter Murch talks about THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY
Murch, who we will talk about more when we get into sound, gives several tips on how you (as an editor) can analyze a scene, taking notes, and remembering what is important.
Script pages for THE VISITOR (Scene 11)
This scene, from an episode of the television show "Paradise", is very straightforward in its execution. These are the script pages for this first scene. You will need to line the pages to reflect the dailies that you watch. For a PDF copy of the scene click here.
Avid Keyboarding
As we go on with our discussion about Avid work, we will refer back to this keyboard chart. Use it to remind yourselve where the keyboard function live. In fact, use it to remind yourself what keyboard functions Avid has.
Avid Monitor Windows
This is a screen shot (from the Avid Manuals) of a typical source/Record Window screen. This is, in other words, what you'll be facing once you start editing. The buttons may vary and, certainly, the footage will as well. But the Avid window will look very much like this.
Lassoing The Avid Timeline
How to get inside the timeline and make things work for you. Useful for draffing individual soundtracks to make L-cuts.
Avid Commands
This is a sometimes hard-to-read excerpt from the Avid 7.0 manual, which lists a large number of the Avid commands. You will be getting
Avid Handouts
There are a number of screen shots of Avid keyboards and screens that might help you as you begin to edit. These illustrations are borrowed from the Avid 7.0 manuals. They include a sample Avid keyboard layout, Avid timelines, a list of Avid commands, the Avid monitor, and a shot of how to lasso cuts on the Avid timeline. All of these handouts are also strung together in one downloadable PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to see this handout.

Assignments for Next Week

Log Line #1.
You will be creating a log line based on an actual movie that you have seen. It can be recent or old. Give it plenty of thought and try to desribe the core of what makes the film special. To see good and bad examples of log lines, click on this hyperlink.
Read the script pages from THE VISITOR
You will begin working on this scene this week so I want you to read the script keeping in mind the idea of beats that we discussed this evening. Create a scene analysis. Then look at the footage and, taking notes, also line the script as we learned tonight. Then...
Edit the scene from THE VISITOR
What is this scene about? Who changes during the scene? What changes during the scene? Where (exactly) do these changes occur? Analyze the footage and compare it to your analysis that you made of the scene based on the script you received last week. What is the same? What is different? Does your analysis still hold up?
Read Chapter 4, 4A, 5 and 5A in the textbook.
These three chapters, combined with the ones you read last week, should take you up to and through the process of editing on film.

Added Materials

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Analyzing A Film Sequence
This is an excerpt from a long discussion about film grammar from a German course at the University of Victoria in Canada. About half way down the page is a rather succinct and interesting discussion with nine questions about how a story is told. While it isn't necessary for us to get into that sort of dogma, these are all pertinent and interesting questions. Further down the page there are discussions (of a less interesting natures) on editing and sound. A page of terms of film criticism (including a fairly comprehensive list of film editing analysis terms), also in the context of German film, can be found at this page.
The episode "The Visitor" is from an old television show called "Paradise". This is a listing of all of the details of the show. I note that the episode name that we've got on the slates here, doesn't appear on this list. They must have changed the episode's name before the air date.
Annenberg/CPB Editing Glossary
A very basic glossary of editing terms. The one in the textbook is, in my humble opinion, much better. But these terms are more conceptual. A more comprehensive glossary can be found on the Internet Movie Database (commonly referred to as IMdB), though it is not restricted to editing terms alone.
All Movie Guide Glossary
A collection of some common and some not-so-common editing and lab terms.

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All material, except where noted, ©1999-2008 by Norman Hollyn. Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Send me an e-mail at my office
Last Modified - September 30, 2008