The Alchemy of Editing: Turning Film into Cinema

By  · Published on December 12th, 2016

A new video examines the most important facet of moviemaking.

A film is the composite whole of many moving parts. It starts on the page then finds people to bring it to life – producers, actors, actresses, lighting techs, sound people, grips, cameramen, assistants and second units, and, of course, the director —and then once it has been birthed it needs to be cleaned up. That’s where an editor comes in. Most folks would tell you that the director is the brains behind a film, and so they are, but a brain isn’t the only thing that keeps a body alive, like a director isn’t the sole driving force behind a film. Because if the director is the brain – that is, the part of this filmmaking body that controls the other parts, tells them how to move, when to move – then the editor is the heart: the part that pumps blood into the story and arranges it from the ether of thought into the logical progression of narrative. Without an editor, all you have is film. It isn’t a movie until it’s cut.

By that token, then, a film’s editor can and should be considered as much an author of a film as its director and screenwriter: each commands a specific phase of storytelling: the screenwriter starts it, the director realizes it, and the editor presents it. As such, like directors and writers, editors have their own styles and techniques they bring to projects. Some use longer, elegiac cuts, some cut rapid-fire as a heartbeat; some twist the planes of visual reality, some adhere to them mercilessly; some draw attention to their artifice, some hide their work in plain sight.

Editing, then, is about much more than simply piecing a film together from its myriad pieces, editing is an establishment of tone, of atmosphere, of pace, of theme and even character. Editing, as poignantly noted by Lewis Bond in his latest video essay, “turns the act of moviemaking into the art of cinema.”

Just how this deft transition is accomplished is the subject of the video, which, as we’ve come to expect from Bond is erudite, informative, and entertaining as only the best academia can be. Bond is an educator, not formally but no less effectively, from his work can be gleaned great insight and in fact a new perspective for film analysis, and he is a valuable resource for anyone wanting to learn how to look beyond the screen. Edit this video into your day, and if you’re unfamiliar with the rest of Bond’s work, fix that at your earliest convenience.

Related Topics:

Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist