I’ve never held back on my love for editing – it’s a special art form that takes a mass of seemingly disparate visual and aural elements, stitches them together into a rough narrative, and then mandates an extensive time to basically tell a story using a style that can reflect a director, a producer, or the editor.
There’s no single rule to creating good editing, but bad editing is recognizable and unforgivable. There’s no rules or a singular right way to tell a story, but you know quite clearly as a viewer when something doesn’t grab you, maintains interest, provokes, and resonate days or months after seeing a film.
Every editor also experiences a moment of what constitutes a Perfect Cut. It’s a combination of things: solving a nagging problem in trying to connect two images and sound, creating an impact on the viewer through the sum total of a couple or several images, or something that just feels sexy. It’s intangible, but you know when you’ve made a Perfect Cut because the transition between two images is invisible and tickles at the same time.
Good editing is also about balancing components within a scene or sequence of related moments, and then making those scenes move, with peaks and valleys that also have moments when they relate to each other, refer back to a theme or specific dramatic beat, or build upon a prior moment or reveal a twist, punchline, or conclusion to an intense story.
Editing also mandates a sense of pacing, whittling down a work, sometimes ripping it apart over and over again, repositioning material, and then making hairline slices here and there until it just feels right, or for a while, is perfect, and the film has an overall sense of balance. Nothing lags, nothing brings the story to a crashing halt for an indulgent moment(s), nothing veers into a ludicrous tangent, or steers in a direction that betrays the subject, insults the audience, and bores people to death.
Earlier this week I posted a review of Art Bastard (2016), a new documentary on NYC painter Robert Cenedella that recently screened at Toronto’s Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, and I’m following up with a podcast interview featuring director and veteran editor Victor Kanefsky that’s now live at Libsyn, iTunes, and YouTube.
During our roughly 35 minute conversation we touch upon the making of Art Bastard and its sublime construction – it’s a textbook example on how to edit, pace, balance, and capture the life of a subject and aspects of his / her life – and the art of editing, as it relates to Kanefsky’s recent work, plus certain films in his lengthy and ongoing career as an editor, including the cult horror film Ganja & Hess (1976), and the iconic graffiti / hip-hop music / break dancing documentary Style Wars (1983), two films with complex editing that, like Art Bastard, reflect Kanefsky’s acumen as an editor.
Coming next: a review of the Finnish horror film White Reindeer / Valkoinen peura (1952) by Erik Blomberg, and starring the riveting Mirjami Kuosmanen.
And here’s a link to the YouTube video featuring an Intercine, an editing table used by film editors to rewind, view, shuttle through, and edit multiple film and audio tracks to make, what else, a movie:
In university we used German Steenbecks, but they had one room that contained a Super 16 Intercine that looked oh-so-pretty with its stylish Italian design and smooth whirring platters.
Mark R. Hasan, Editor