Features and Columns · Movies

Jump On It: Exploring the Narrative Potential of the Jump Cut

From special effects to montage, to pure, unbridled style, here’s a brief introduction to the many uses of the jump cut.
Run Lola Run jump cut
By  · Published on January 27th, 2022

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on the editing technique known as the jump cut.

Now listen, gang, I hear you. “Meg,” you say in your best Lucille Bluth voice, “it’s just a jump cut, how complicated could it be?” Well folks, sometimes the simplest techniques have the most applications. So in the spirit of open minds, let’s cut (haha) to the chase.

As defined by Tim Grierson’s essential read This Is How You Make a Movie, a jump cut is an editing technique that involves a transition, usually within the same scene, that doesn’t flow smoothly from what we just saw. Where a more traditional cut will take the viewer from one angle of a scene to another, a jump cut often captures the action from the same perspective, creating a disorienting and frenetic effect that flies in the face of the accepted rules of continuity.

If the legend is to be believed, the jump cut was discovered by Georges Méliès, who happened upon the trick accidentally when his camera jammed. One of the director’s most visually stunning hallmarks — the sudden disappearance, transformation, or arrival of supernatural beasties — relies heavily on the technique. But, as the video essay below lays out in great detail, the jump cut has plenty of other applications outside of its potential as a special effect.

Where some directors employ the technique to infuse kineticism into a scene, others leverage the technique’s discontinuity to create a more fragmented, impressionistic effect (as the essay rightly notes, Terence Malick is especially guilty of this). Jump cuts can be used to turn a simple moment into something suffused with energy, stress, and import. They can emphasize the panic and stress of a given moment. They are often used to compress time in the form of montage, with characters moving around while the camera remains stationary.

There are also axial cuts, a favorite technique of the Master of Suspense himself Alfred Hitchcock, which see shots “punching in” towards a subject along the same axis.

But, as with most visual techniques, seeing is believing. So jump right into this video essay and revel in the potential of one of cinema’s oldest editing techniques:

Watch “What is a Jump Cut & When to Use It”:

Who made this?

This video essay on how the jump cut works was created by StudioBinder, a production management software creator that also happens to produce wildly informative video essays. They tend to focus on the mechanics of filmmaking itself, from staging to pitches and directorial techniques. You can check out their YouTube account here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).