Unreal Nature

June 11, 2015


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… What can be fresh is the ever-changing meaning of each shot in a new context.

This first is from the interview with Evan Lottman in First Cut: Conversations with Film Editors by Gabriella Oldham (1992):

[ … ]

Do directors or cinematographers envision a film one way while the editor sees it differently once it begins to be assembled?

I don’t think a finished film is ever anything that anybody envisions initially. This may be a cliché, but film has a life of its own. It always comes out somewhat different from anyone’s expectations. Actors change the meaning and rhythm of the words, cinematographers change the look, directors reshape it. It’s just not the way it was on the written page.

The following is from the book’s interview with Peter C. Frank:

[ … ]

You also cut nonmusical films to focus on where you need to be from an audience’s perspective. Do you put yourself in their position?

Always, always. But that’s very tricky because I can never be an audience. From the very first, I know more than an audience knows. So the profession, in one sense — and I’m talking now about all editing — is in gaining enough experience with audiences and with film to have some seat-of-the-pants knowledge about where the audience will be at any given moment. The rest is just plain pleasing yourself; that’s the most important part. But, you know, it is something an audience has to see and understand, and if they don’t get it, you haven’t done it right. All of the screenings we do with people present — I mean friends as well as anonymous audiences — are very important. You feel when they understand, when they sympathize, when they laugh at your presentation or are involved with the characters. It’s vital to get experience with it and to use that experience every time you work.

For the sake of audience, you have to approach the material fresh.

The material is never fresh, to me it can’t be. What can be fresh is the way it takes you from place to place. What can be fresh is the ever-changing meaning of each shot in a new context. If you can keep your mind open to it, every time you make a change in a film, everything changes.

[ … ]

… Everything floats through the editor. He becomes the center of the final efforts to write the film, to score it, to give it a voice. His experience crosses over to other directors and he can bring in outside knowledge. He gets bored with things more quickly and says, “It’s a nice shot but let’s only use a little of it.”

Even so, many editors feel underacknowledged or anonymous.

Certainly film editing is an accompanying position, like a pianist accompanies a soloist. It’s artistic, it’s sensitive. I don’t in any sense mean to demean or belittle the accomplishment or role, but it’s one at the service of other people’s ideas and intentions — essentially, the writer’s and director’s intentions. Some people can be comfortable in that role and some people can’t. Just because you can be comfortable doesn’t limit you to it. But if you’re always fighting to be the boss, you’ll have at the very least an extremely stormy career. If you can feel your own abilities, even though they’re at the service of others, that’s an essential for at least a satisfying experience. There’s a corollary with editing which is that everyone’s point of view is valid, and everyone speaks for some portion of the audience, no matter how outrageously they’ve misunderstood what you meant. I would be suspicious of anyone who thought that editing was a career for them until they’ve been in it for quite a while. There’s a lot of different jobs, crafts, skills in film. Someone might be intensely interested in film and want to be an editor, thinking that’s where it’s at. I think they should try to write, direct, edit, shoot, act — do it all and follow their instincts.

My most recent previous post from Oldham’s book is here.




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