Editing For Directors: A Guide For Creative Collaboration by Gael Chandler (book review).

September 30, 2021 | By | Reply More

Once I started reading ‘Editing For Directors: A Guide For Creative Collaboration’, it became apparent that Gael Chandler’s book extended beyond its brief. Not only is this book going to fill in background information for directors but also as a teaching aid for editors and certainly outsiders who think all editors do is reduce the amount of screen time for actors on screen.

The fact that she couldn’t get a mortgage because one company’s people thought actors wouldn’t like dealing with her shows how ignorant people are of her role in bringing the director’s film into a viable film. The editor’s job is, after all, to make the actors shine, not show them at their worse and make sure the story is told the way the director wants it.

Editing a film, be it for cinema or TV, is primarily sitting in a darkened room and going through all the footage taken and choosing the best bits and then making sure they match up properly. Chandler’s comments about eye-line matching suddenly makes this book of interest to comicbook artists for the little things that are invariably taken for granted and easily forgotten and brings some finesse to the work. A reader or viewer might not know what is being done but if it’s not done it quickly becomes apparent something is wrong. She also shows examples from a wide selection of film genres, ensuring that you should have at least seen some of them.

The history of film almost goes hand in hand with editing. A lot of it was finesse and developing the best shots to move the short flickers (originally named because of the poor screening projectors) along. DW Griffiths with his 12 reeler ‘Birth Of A Nation’ (1915) being regarded as the start of editing, although this was purely from the director before it became a specialised craft. Seeing the equipment grow and develop for splicing film from the Moviola to the German made Steenback and the more recent EditDroid in digital. Chandler points out that some directors also take on the editor role but it appears its largely because they have the clout and experience to do so.

Although sound editing is a different skill, I did wonder how the film editor knew how to pick the right frame and Chandler infers that they could see no squiggles in the sound side of the film as being the safest place to cut and glue. The same thing no doubt exists digitally but as its all multi-track easier to follow.

Don’t think all these developments were for the American film industry, a lot of development in editing was also carried out in the USSR. For the record, the first Academy Award for editing was in 1935 for the film ‘Eskimo’. It took another 28 years before sound editing got acknowledged with ‘It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’, illustrating just how slow things are in acknowledging specialised skills.

The principle point of this book is to teach directors something about the editors job, including their jargon. It’s interesting to note that there are specified cuts: The First Cut, although defined as a ‘rough cut’ is near perfect. The Editor’s Cut is more refinements. Lastly, the Editor’s Assembly required for union films. Although she doesn’t mention ‘Director’s Cuts’ until much later, this is still essentially an editor’s work putting scenes back in that were removed to bring the film down to a particular length.

Don’t forget our main SF examples came largely about when viewers discovered that there scenes were taken out and wanted to see them in the Ridley Scott films ‘Alien’ and ‘Blade Runner’ and with Jim Cameron’s ‘The Abyss’ and ‘Aliens’ to bring the film length down. With George Lucas with his ‘Star Wars’ films, improved special effects and Steven Spielberg’s ‘Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’ not satisfied with what he did.

Seeing how a film is put together shows the film editor’s skill. It’s also of note, compared to my own editor role at SFC here, that even they step away from the film for a brief holiday once the first edit is done so they come back to it with a fresh eye.

For those of you who write, not only film but in other creative pursuits, especially comicbook, there is a lot to be learnt in how to catch the scene from different angles and catching the right mood. Seeing how Chandler shows these tips shows how much hard work goes into making something look so simple. Locking the film down for the soundtrack and such to be added shows how much has to be done at the end and this has its own chapters and at least explains why music tracks are added than purely from the composer.

There’s also a lot of cross-referencing that could become books in their own right. The various guilds have rules and creative rights they need to adhere to and I’d love to know more about them.

The final chapters deal with sound and special effects sounds that are added to the film and you get a complete picture of just how much work is carried out.

Although Chandler has writing other books about film editing, I suspect the amateur film maker will learn as much here as with her other books in sharpening up their films. If there is an area that wasn’t explored sufficiently, then I would say how editing was applied in animation. There were hints that they are involved at the storyboard stage but could have needed some comparisons to normal films. As I’ve also pointed out, other creative areas can also learn how to improve their own use of scenes to be as effective as possible. It certainly was a learning experience for me.

GF Willmetts

September 2021

(pub: Michael Wiese Productions. 209 page illustrated indexed small enlarged paperback. Price: $29.30 (US), £23.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-61593-328-0)

check out website: www.mwp.com

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Category: Movie books

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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