Editing

A dear friend of mine and former colleague at Columbia, the late Ralph Rosenblum, one of the great film editors, author of When the Shooting Stops, the Cutting Begins: A Film Editor's Story, had a jaundiced view of directors and believed that he and all good editors existed to salvage the film — to cover up errors of omission, to fabricate meaning when there was none — in short, to save the director's skin. Ralph, like many editors (and producers), believed that the director's job was to work with the actors and create life, but that life was then to be rendered in "coverage," said coverage to be the palette with which the editor painted his story. I do not subscribe to this and have been teaching my students to design their films, to previsualize, to make their films in their head before shooting. If this is done, the editing takes care of itself. Well, not quite.

What you are looking for in choosing an editor is, again, someone who will defer to your vision, but someone who has a strong narrative and dramatic sense

— again, a strong presence for the director to bounce off. Many directors hand their film over to an editor for a first assembly or even more. This is probably not a good idea if you do not know the editor very well. And even then I caution against it. The initial task of choosing a "take" of a performance is a crucial decision and should not be made by someone else. The director has worked too hard to lose the film in the editing process.

Many independent filmmakers nowadays, and especially those who have been trained in film school, have already edited their early exercises and short films, so editing is not foreign to their conception of directorial responsibility. But on many big-budget productions, scenes are cut by an editor while the shooting is still going on. The beginning filmmaker, however, has too much still to learn about cinematic storytelling to forgo this experience. The feedback necessary to grow in one's craft

— what works and what does not, what is the relationship between the director's visualization before shooting and what appears on the screen — is never more available for study than in the uncut camera takes.

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