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The Film Editor- The Real Star of Film Production

September 2, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

POST: The Film Editor is the true star of any Film Production

Today, I want to focus on The Film Editor.

Learning all about the Tools of the Trade

This morning I read all about the Oscars.  Kirk Baxter, an Australian, has just won back to back Oscars. Kirk won last night for the film " The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. *  Yet it hardly makes the papers.  For many people, film  editors are these nerdy characters who spend way too much time in small rooms. Yet in reality they are the true stars of any Film Production.

Tropfest was one of the big film events in February.  Tropfest is the worlds largest film festival which takes place at the Domain in Sydney. On the Saturday I attended Tropfest Roughcut with about 150 other film makers.     Speaking at the event were non other than

Geoffrey Rush, Actor (The King’s Speech, Pirates of the Caribbean)
Kieran Darcy-Smith, Director (Wish You Were Here), Actor (Animal Kingdom)
Jason Ballantine, Editor (The Great Gatsby, Wolf Creek, Wish You Were Here)

Jason Ballantine is certainly one of the most talented Film Editors with a raft of great film credits all ready attached to his name. Yet he is very humble.  Yet, he is one of the most important  creative people working on Great Gatsby starring Leonardo DiCaprio

I always find it amazing that Film Editors never get the credit that they are due. I am going to be controversial and say this the Film Editor is the single most important crew member after the Film Director.

Many outsiders do not realize the following fact.   The Film Director will spend most of his or her life in post production. The Shoot might be only 6 - 10 weeks while post production will often consume about 9 months after the film is finished. Peter Jackson spent just over  a year shooting the Lord of the Rings trilogy and then spent three years in Post Production.

It is the attention to detail in Post Production that pays off. If time is spent on post production, this will dramatically make the difference between a  really good film and an average film.

Let me clarify Post Production. Post Production includes the

Picture Edit (today's subject)
Colouring and Grading
Visual Effects
Titles
Music
Sound Postproduction
Conforming formats such as DCP.
The Film Director is involved with all of the above.

Booming and getting the very best location sound

On the film set, the film director only gathers the building blocks of  the film and of course it is very important to get the very best building blocks. However the edit and full post production is where the film is made. There is a gulf of difference between a really good edit and an average edit. In the former,  the film is dynamic and engaging. In the latter the film stinks and is considered a Turkey.

However the edit is one area that is neglected in the short film arena. Many emerging film makers believe that the film is complete, once the shoot is over.

The mindset is this .....  "Oh yes there is still a bit of editing and music to do but the film is now shot and it will only be a short time till the film is complete."
The emerging film maker  then confronts reality. Post Production can suddenly feel like a never ending process.

Picture Editing  is an art form that  only came into existence when  motion picture was invented back in the late 19th Century.  Before 1896, there were many fine actors who acted in theater  and there were many stories been told in different mediums. Photography had been around for a long time. Music had been around since the dawn of man.

Motion Picture editing only started once we could shoot motion picture.  Therefore it is the purest season of film making. It exists totally out of the need to cut motion picture and create the illusion of a story.

Editing up to the early 1990s was a cumbersome process. I remember my first films back in the late 80s. We used to edit on Steenbacks. We would literally chop the film with a small guillotine and splice it back together with splicing tape. Any visual effects would be chalked on the film print and sent off to an Optical House where the effects would be created.

How times have changed for the better.  We now edit in the computer and anyone can do it from anywhere. I often edit on the airplane when I am on long flights. You will only know the difference great editing makes once  you start to make your own films. One of the areas we focus on in our film schools is Post Production. A large part of the course is dedicated to post production with 5 sessions spent finishing the film.

Many emerging film makers find the shoot so exciting and fun. The adrenalin is running and once the film is shot, they then are

Course Production Filming on Set

confronted with post production which is insular and slow.  Suddenly there is only two people.  The Director and the Editor sitting in front of a computer actually making a film. Not so exciting for many people.

To me personally, editing is one of the best parts of film making.  When one sits down to create magic and a memorable engaging story, the hours fly by.  I believe that if you want to be a Film Director it is important to love this season of film making.

You have a choice as a Film Director.

  1. Learn editing and become an expert at editing and cutting your own short films and anyone else you can volunteer for. I  personally think that if you can learn to edit, it will pay off in the  long run.
  2. Find an experienced or up and coming editor and work closely with them on your films

How do you do this?  The first step is to enroll on a really good film school

 

Till next time , have a great one.
Colm O’Murchu      Director
http://www.australianfilmbase.com/

* If you have not seen the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, please see it. It is a wonderful film that engages you from the beginning to the end. David Fincher  is at his best in this very engaging thriller set in Sweden

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