Thread: What makes good film editing?

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  1. #1 What makes good film editing? 
    Senior Member
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    Jul 2009
    I have always been perplexed over how people evaluate film (for lack of a better word here on Reduser) editing. I suppose one benchmark is "Does the film work?" But with Acadamy Awards coming up soon, I have no idea of how editors are chosen since, unless you were on the set, you have no idea of what the editor had to work with to make the final film. Is an editor who has minimal coverage to work with and produces a good movie better than an editor who had huge shooting ratios and lots of coverage who makes a better than average film? Or where the talent and DP are on mark on one project vs. editing a low budget project that looks like a low budget project?

    I'll be interviewing editors later this year. I have no idea of what questions to ask. My base so far are recommendations, but when I ask the person making the recommendation on what he bases his recommendation, all I get are generaliztions or "he's a good guy", which is worse.

    Lastly, what's your experience of having the editor (or assistant) on the set? I know about coverage, but is that extra insight worth the extra money? How do your directors work in this regard? Does the DP get bent out of shape?

    If you are not in the daily Hollywood deal stream, how would you suggest I narrow down my choices?

    Thanks guys
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  2. #2  
    Well, I honestly don't like having the editor on the set, or at least not the final editor. The best aspect of an editor, imho, is that he can judge the footage without knowing how easy or challenging it was to get.

    And your question about editing really expands to all areas of filmmaking. Was the DP good, or did the director micromanage the visuals to the point where the DP really wasn't responsible for anything? Was the actor good, or did the director spend 109 takes molding every aspect of it until he was happy?

    The only fair way imho, is just to look at how the movie flows from cut to cut in the finished product. Maybe there's a great editor who saved a movie in editing, but there's no way to know that barring extensive research into every film considered. And in 100 years, all people will see is that a film won for best editing, and all they'll have to look at is the finished film.
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  3. #3  
    Senior Member
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    Sep 2007
    Raleigh, NC
    I think you have sort of answered your own question with more questions...which is correct!

    To me, it is very difficult to judge editing without knowing what the editor had to work with AND what influence other decision-makers had. (ie If the director has say or ideas on how something is cut).

    We cut some pretty intensive reality shows that are much more like mini-documentaries, including "Jon & Kate Plus 8" and now "19 Kids & Counting." The latter actually has an hour special airing tomorrow night on TLC that I cut that I'm proud of. That said, when watching it, you'll never know what notes from execs I had to adjust for, what music selections I had to change, etc. So, from just watching the final cut, it's hard for you to judge it on only what you're seeing.

    Also, shows differ as I'm sure movies do. For instance, on the shows we do, we get a lot of leeway on creating the story. The producer trusts us at times to create the act opposed to just cutting to a script. Again, some shows we may get 15 hours of footage to cut down to 22 min...others we may get 4.

    I would put this type of editing up any day versus the editing of your typical car commercial...but guess which gets more awards and credit? :-) I will say that editing those takes a different set of skills as usually you're going to be editing with a dozen agency people sitting behind you arguing over the 5 cuts in the spot.

    Okay, I'm beating a dead horse. Hopefully this stimulates some thought and questions. Like for any art or craft, I personally don't even like awards or judgements. This stuff isn't football or a running race where the winner is clear. It's really in the eye of the beholder as to what is good, great or horrible. Just my $.02.
    Drawbridge Media, Inc.
    Drawbridge does a mix of corporate video production, spots,
    live events and post-production. We also edit shows for Discovery Networks/TLC.
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  4. #4  
    You know a movie has been edited well when at the end of the movie the viewer says, 'wow that guy can act!'
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