The Editing Process

In 90 percent of the cases, the cinema verite film is found and made on the editing table. Often the filmmaker senses there is a story but is unsure what it is until the material has been sifted and partially edited. So the selection of a creative and thoughtful editor becomes even more crucial to the success of the cinema verite film.

In a scripted film, the editing process is fairly straightforward. Since the story line of the film is given, it is usually easy to start at the beginning and, without too much bother, make your way to the end. In a cinema verite film, you often don't even know what the focal point of the film is or what it is about, let alone have the comfort of starting at a beginning and working through to a conclusion.

Where do you begin when you're faced with all these problems? I start by cutting scenes I like and seeing what makes them work and what they reveal to me. At that stage, I don't bother with the placement of the scenes within the overall film. When I finish a scene, I write the details about it on a card and pin it to the wall. This work might go on for weeks or months, depending on the film. During this time, a process of clarification is taking place; I am beginning to see connections, lines, meanings.

Sometimes this happens in the editing room itself, sometimes when I'm relaxing. It's certainly not a linear process.

Perhaps once a week, alone or with someone else who is seriously involved on the film, I look at the cards on the wall and try to see connections and links. Slowly but inevitably the thrust of the film emerges.

The complexity of editing a cinema verite film can be seen in comments made by Ellen Hovde, one of the editors and codirectors of the Maysles brothers' film Grey Gardens. The film is a portrait of two unusual women, Edith Bouvier Beale (Big Edie) and her fifty-five-year-old unmarried daughter, also called Edie, and was shot by Al Maysles and recorded by David Maysles. I asked Ms. Hovde if the Maysles brothers told her what they were looking for in the film.

No. Never. They had no idea. Just a sense of two charismatic people, and that there might be a story. . . . When the material came in we just let it wash over us. In general it was very strange. You almost couldn't tell if you had anything until you cut it, because it was so free-flowing. Very repetitive. It didn't have a structure. There were no events. There was nothing around which a conversation was going to wheel. It was all kind of the same in a gross way, and you had to dig into it, try to find motivations, condense the material to bring out psychological tones.

I was always, I guess, looking for relationships. I think we were pushing in film terms towards a novel of sensibility rather than a novel of plot.

I don't think we were clear at all (at least not in the beginning) about the direction we were going in. I think we all knew there was nothing in terms of "action," but what was really going on was not clear.

The main themes that Muffie (my coeditor) and I decided to go with were the questions "Why were the mother and daughter together?" "Was it possible that little Edie was there to take care of her mother, and it was the demanding mother who took care that her daughter couldn't leave?" and "Was the relationship really a symbiotic one?"

Film Making

Film Making

If you have ever wanted the secrets to making your own film, here it is: Indy Film Insider Tips And Basics To Film Making. Have you ever wanted to make your own film? Is there a story you want to tell? You might even think that this is impossible. Studios make films, not the little guy. This is probably what you tell yourself. Do you watch films with more than a casual eye? You probably want to know how they were able to get perfect lighting in your favorite scene, or how to write a professional screenplay.

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