Film Editor Spend A Workday

The Film Editor

Often called the “invisible hand” by those in the industry, the art of film editing is one that is done best when the effects are seamless and undetectable. A film editor is in charge of taking the director’s vision and applying it to the film itself to come up with a final draft. It is the film equivalent of a novelist going back through his first draft and taking out all the extraneous material, making the novel flow more smoothly and bringing out the thematic elements that might not have been as powerful or noteworthy in the rough draft. In Hollywood, directors are usually not their own editors, but there are exceptions.

A Day in the Life

Though an editor may be on set for the filming of a movie, experiencing the director’s vision firsthand, more often than not she comes into play after principal photography is finished. The cans of unedited film land on her desk, and she uses this, along with the screenplay, to create a final film. Of course, today these cans of unedited film are typically digital copies of the scenes, and the cutting tools used are not scissors and splicers but computer software such as Final Cut Pro and Avid. The bigger the budget of the film, the more editors will be working on the project. The days of a lone editor painstakingly cutting a film by herself are quite gone.

The Director’s Vision

By following the screenplay and the instructions from the director, the film editor finds himself in less of a creative position than one might have imagined. Still, there is room for vast amounts of interpretation, meaning that a film editor’s job is a long way from being replaced by an automated system. The editor must examine each scene and determine just the right take to use, manage the cuts between camera angles and determine when the scene is best begun and ended. This can mean the difference of a few seconds of screen time or an aggregate amount building up to many minutes over the course of a film. Film editors are often under instruction to bring the picture in under a certain length, and this knowledge will also guide them in creating the final draft.

The Three Cuts

The editor will work with her team to create the first cut of the film, which is the editor’s cut. This is also sometimes referred to as the assembly cut. At this time, the director will rejoin the post-production process and work hand in hand with the editor to create his final vision of the movie. Of course, this final vision is rarely that, as many studios have the right of final cut. This means that the director’s cut goes to the studio, which then has the right to change the film further to fit its desires. Because of this discrepancy between the director’s cut and the final, theatrical release, it has created a substantial market for DVDs featuring the director’s original vision.

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