Instructor - Norman Hollyn


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Aug 26 (Wk 1)

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Oct 21 (Wk 9)

Oct 28 (Wk 10)

Nov 4 (Wk 11)

Nov 11 (Wk 12)

Nov 18 (Wk 13)

Nov 25 (Wk 14)

Dec 2 (Wk 15)

Dec 9 (FINAL)


Your Comments On The Class

Instructor: Norman Hollyn Phone: 323/661-2704
Messages: 310/490-7658  

Web Site:

This is the page where I'll post any comments that you send to me that I think would be appropriate for other in the class. Feel free to send me questions (at my e-mail address or comments about our classes, films you've seen, editing in general, or anything else you think of and I'll post them here.

Here's how to do it. Click on the letter image right here:

This should bring up your mail program. If it doesn't copy the address from the first paragrpah above and post it into your mail program's address.

After I get your e-mail, I will post all appropriate messages below, the latest messages on the top.

I'm going to start us off with some comments from last semester so you can see some of the feedback that's already been sent my way.

(3/15/01) From Akin Salauw, a student in my 535 class several years ago.
USC definitely prepared me for The Real World
[Akin worked on that MTV series last year: as an editorial assistant]. I ultimately had very little time actually on the Avid. I spent most of my time logging footage & then trying to figure out (on paper) how it should be cut to tell a story. Ironically, I'd say it wasn't so much Crimson Tide that helped me, as much as the Western footage in which we didn't necessarily know exactly how it was meant to be cut. So I understood the need to analyze how a piece of footage can read in a different context.

I actually also manage a website right now: We market to college students and make shows that can be streamed if you have broadband connection. Unfortunately the shows are not so good. But I think USC might have made me a big snob.

An interesting perspective on the difference between scripted and documentary style editing.

(10/30/00) I found the following on the web and thought it might be of interest to you and/or the class [re: Ben Burtt's comments about digital footage]:
and some info about the new Panavision/Sony 24fps digital cameras:
Thanks a lot for the info.

Two comments on JUST LOOKING.

(10/16/00) I saw Just Looking this weekend at the Beverly Center. And after seeing the entire film, I didn't miss Phil's goodbye with Lenny. I had a question -- I noticed that the editing choices in the scene where Lenny and Johnny first meet in Phil's backyard were, for the most part, "4-square." The scene worked quite well, but we talked in class about how this kind of choice can emphasize a sense of confrontation. This was a different kind of scene, yet it worked well. How did you decide what choices -- or rhythms -- to employ in this scene?
You chose an interesting scene to ask about. First of all, there were shooting problems (it was shot on the first or second day of production and Jason was still warming up). There was really no coverage of Johnny and Phil walking to the table. There was an awkward camera dolly into the boys, and it took forever to get Norma and Phil up and into the house. So, I was working with footage that, until the boys were isolated (actually several lines into that part of the scene) was not complete. However, your observation that scene was cut very four-square is quite true and here is the scene analysis behind it. Lenny and Johnny are not confrontational, but Lenny very definitely does not want to be sitting here talking to this boy, because he's not where he wants to be -- at home in Queens. there is an awkwardness as they seek some common ground and it is clear that everything that Lenny wants is not what Johnny is offering (Phil bike is a piece of shit, no one plays stoopball). It's not until they get to the sex club issue that Lenny perks up. So the cutting style was emphasizing the awkwardness between them and leading up to the sex club punchline. The scene isn't entirely four-square as I remember it, it gets more reactive from Lenny as it goes on.
(10/16/00) I also strongly sensed Lenny's disorientation when he discovers where Phil has disappeared to.
[WARNING: This answer has some spoilers in it. If you intend on seeing the film, you might want to skip this.] Jason had an interesting take on the scene with Lenny finding Phil and Hedy in bed together and it ties together with the mirrors. First, he created the mirrors out of necessity, because he knew that it would be impossible for Lenny to see Hedy in bed from the ground floor, outside her house (in the scene where Hedy goes to sleep after seeing the club in the weeds). However, the mirrors are the eyes of his soul, to some degree, and when he finally gets to see two people making love it is something that doesn't WANT to see. He turns every which way he can in the room to avoid seeing the sight, but the mirrors won't let him avoid it. In the earlier fantasies in the film the camera was always at a tilt when he fantasized about sex. Now, the camera can't quite go tilted (though it moves like crazy), and he can't avoid seeing what he doesn't want to see.

(10/5/00) I don't recall if we discussed WHY we as individuals are taking editing. For me, it is not because I have a desire to be an editor. I don't. I think I would find it stifling. I enjoy creating images too much to manipulate somebody else's, though I realize that the way we assemble those images changes the way we perceive those images -- which in effect IS creating images. That is not to say that I don't respect the craft. I do. I am intimidated by it - which is ONE of the main reasons I am taking it. I don't think I am particularly good at it. I don't know if I ever will excel at it, but I don't want to have a gaping deficiency in it.
Excellent points here. This class isn't about being an editor per se, it's about how to create good editing. Editors, as I often say, don't usually have the ultimate say in how their work is presented. In fact, directors often don't. The trick with moviemaking is that it is an inherently collaborative craft. You're not a photographer, working in your own darkroom or in your own copy of Photoshop. You're collaborating with writers, actors, other craftsman, studio executives and the audience.

(9/23/00) I was curious about your own movie tastes. What movies got you into moviemaking?
That's a very broad question and deserves a much broader answer than I have time to give. In a nutshell, it was 2001:A Space Odyssey and working as an usher in a movie theatre, back when they had such things. I had been working at a local movie theatre for a few months when SPACE ODYSSEY came out. I was quite blown away by the way in which Kubrick told a story and, working with (even then I knew) limited actors, created a mythic fable. I began to see the film several times, thanks to my free passes from the sister theatre where I worked. I began to look at the film's construction -- the way in which it divided into neat acts (four of them, I'd say) and I looked at how he constructed each segment/act.
Then, at the theatre where I worked, I had the opportunity to look at films again and again and again. Because many of them were dreadful, I was forced to start examining how they were put together. By the time I got into college, I knew I liked what films could do. From there it was an unfortunately short step to wanting to be involved in making them do those things.

(9/23/00) What movies would you recommend that we see? What pictures and editors would you recommend we study?
You're going to get a good sense of that from the various films I bring into class but I'd pretty much say almost any well put together film is worth looking at from the point of view of its editing. I love Gerry Hambling, who's cut all of Alan Parker's films (for better and worse). I think that Dede Allen's work in the seventies and eighties pushed the boundaries of editing. Look at Robert Wise's work in CITIZEN KANE. But, more than that, look at the films that you like and think about why.

(9/23/00) While I was editing, I discovered how much footage I had in my first cut that could go. I was holding onto shots much too long and everything felt slow, drawn out, overlong. It amazed me how sometimes only the beginning of an action was really needed to get across the idea of the entire movement itself.
Examining cuts is essential to the editing process. Editing is really re-editing. It is quite normal that an editor's first cut will be fat, that is too much at the head and tail of cuts, too many cuts, etc. etc. You can never learn how to involve the audience in a film as a general rule, you can only learn how to learn. You will develop a set of tools to learn how to work the varied material that you get, to fulfill the director's objective.

(9/23/00) Do you feel pacing is a usually a reflection of a director or editor's own energy? Is it something that's learned as you hone your craft?
Pacing is a function of the script and the material. In a well directed film, the director sets that tone and it is my responsibility to affect it. I often suggest other styles of editing or different approaches and the director can vote up or vote down. Now, editors develop specialties, but I don't think that it is our job to have a style. It is our job not to have a style. What I have learned in the years I've been editing is how to think on many levels at the same time. Or, to put it another way, to internalize many of the thoughts that we are consciously talking about in class. Script, editing style, director's needs, etc. etc. etc. All of these things contribute to pacing, that is, story telling.


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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