Editing a film has always been something of a mystery to me. Unlike music being transcribed to paper for any musician to read and play, editing is more ambiguous.You tend to rely on your gut feeling - there are no real rules. For a long period of time I’ve made cuts because I ‘feel’ like I should. But in film, at the same time, there are common 'theories' or things that work and don’t work. These film ‘theories’ can be broken when done in context. Editing is a really complex art form. I was recently reading Michael Ondaatje’s book, ‘The Conversations, Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film’. In the book Walter Murch, who grew up editing and working on the sound for films for George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppa, boiled editing down to one sentence, that completely resonated with me: “The editor must take advantage of all the material that is given to him and reveal it in a way that feels like a natural but exciting unfolding of the ideas of the film”. These words lept of the page as I realized this was the guiding principle I had subconsciously based all my editing on. Whether it be a wedding, music video or short film, this principle dictated how I edited the piece. I’ve often compared editing to driving a car. The film starts at 60km, in the middle you bring it up to 100km and at the end you are near 150km. If you start at 150km you leave yourself with nowhere to go...the film becomes static and will seem flat to the audience.
Murch’s quote sums up the objective of editing for me. Until now I didn’t really have a concrete sentence to describe the art of editing. This concept has now provided me with another filter to run my first or second cut through, and in doing so, I feel slowly becoming a better editor and inturn, a better filmmaker and story teller.