The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing (2004) Movie Script

What makes a movie a movie
is the editing.
I've been in the business for,
I don't know, 37 years, I think.
Something like that.
I did not really realize what editing was
until I was in the editing room myself.
There's magic to editing.
Magic is a discovery...
of something new that wasn't intended
that works for the movie.
Once you start to realize
that film is the sum of editing...
then editing is the thing
you're always looking at.
Showtime, folks.
I think great editing skill...
will protect a director from suicide.
The first filmmakers simply photographed
what interested or amused them.
They held a shot until they got bored
or the film ran out.
The fathers of cinema,
Edison in the United States...
and the Lumie brothers in France...
were very pessimistic
about the future of cinema.
There was probably a worldwide interest...
in seeing these images move...
but once you'd seen somebody
playing a joke with a hose...
why pay money to see something
that you can see for real out in the street?
In fact, Auguste Lumie
went as far as to say...
that cinema was an invention
without a future.
But Edwin Porter,
one of Thomas Edison's employees...
proved him wrong.
Porter discovered
that cutting separate shots together...
could create a story.
Edwin S. Porter really was the one
with The Life of an American Fireman...
I think, that started intercutting...
and creating an emotional impact
on the audience...
by intercutting two shots
that are not related to each other.
One scene is going on at one place...
basically, the firemen rushing to a fire
with their horse-drawn wagons...
and the other scene is the fire,
miles away.
You intercut the two and you understand,
psychologically and emotionally...
that these people's lives are in danger...
and these people are coming
to rescue them...
and you're rooting, all of a sudden,
for that to happen...
and you're hoping they save the people.
I often think about
what it must have been like to be there...
to create the art form
as it was happening...
and say, "Why don't we try this?"
"That doesn't make sense."
We do it in the editing room now.
We cut to something and say,
"That doesn't work."
Imagine what they must have said in 1904.
The Great Train Robbery
was Porter's next film.
That's when you really begin
to see the possibilities.
I'm not saying this because I'm an editor,
but the invention of editing...
is the thing that allowed film to take off.
It's the equivalent
of the invention of flight.
Both human-powered flight
and motion-picture editing...
were invented in the same year,
and they have similar kinds of effects.
The invention of editing gave birth
to a new art and a new language...
a language that can transport us
in the blink of an eye...
from the vastness of the desert
to the mysteries of the human face.
A cut can bridge millions of years,
connecting the prehistoric past...
to an imaginary future.
Editing can slow down time...
or speed it up.
The timing of a cut can startle audiences...
or amuse them.
...with a long knife trailing after me.
I am in great danger.
I'll never let go. I promise.
The choice and length of shots...
shape our response
to everything we see on the screen.
And editing is why people like movies.
Because in the end,
wouldn't we like to edit our own lives?
I think we would.
I think everybody would like
to take out the bad parts...
take out the slow parts,
and look deeper into the good parts.
I started working
on what used to be called...
the upright Moviola,
which is an editing machine...
that looks something
like a green sewing machine on legs.
I switched to computer editing
in the mid '90s.
The editor is sort of the ombudsman
for the audience.
As an editor, you only see
what is on the screen...
not what was going on
at the time of shooting...
and that's how it's gonna look
to the audience.
I make it a principle not to go on the set...
not to see the actors out of costume...
not to see anything other than...
the images that come to me from location.
A major Hollywood production
shoots almost 200 hours of film.
Unspooled, the film would stretch
from L.A. To Vegas.
An editor may work for months,
even years...
crafting this footage
into a two-hour movie.
The finished film
will contain thousands of shots...
each measured in frames
of one-twenty-fourth of a second.
For a writer, it's a word.
For a composer or a musician, it's a note.
For an editor and a filmmaker,
it's the frames.
The one frame off or two frames added...
or two frames less...
is the difference between
a sour note and a sweet note...
is the difference between...
clunky, clumsy crap...
and orgasmic rhythm.
Verna Fields made many
good contributions to Jaws.
We all refer to Verna Fields
as Mother Cutter...
because she was very earthy
and very maternal.
She cut her films at her house,
in her pool house...
in the San Fernando Valley...
and it was a very haimish
kind of a workplace.
The shark didn't work as well...
or as often as it was supposed to work
according to the screenplay.
That's the spot.
We had a contest where Verna
would stop the Moviola on a frame...
where she wanted to make the cut,
and I'd stop it where I wanted it.
If ever we stopped it on the same frame...
that had already been marked
with a grease-pencil "X"...
we knew that was the right frame
on certain things where we didn't agree.
All of our disagreements always happened
with that darn shark.
Verna was always in favor
of making less to be more.
And I was trying
to squeeze that one more...
'Cause it took me days to get
the one shot. So I'm going back to...
I'm on a barge for two days
trying to get the shark to look real...
and the sad fact was...
the shark would only look real
in 36 frames, not 38 frames.
And that two-frame difference...
was the difference between
something really scary...
and something that looked
like a great white floating turd.
Out of my way.
Well, I got so desperate on Terminator 2...
trying to shorten that film
to a manageable length...
as we all understand that to be...
that I said, "Wait a minute,
do we need all these frames?
"If we just took out one frame
every second for the entire film...
"we'd shorten the film
by a couple of minutes.
"Let's just do it as a test.
"We'll take a reel
and we'll take out one frame in every 24."
And the editors looked at me
like I was nuts.
"Let's just try it. Come on.
Nobody's ever done this."
We took out one frame in every 24,
and it was a mess.
There were jerks, there were things,
there were cuts in the wrong places.
You totally saw it and it just didn't work.
Every one of those individual frames
was important.
Once you know that as an editor,
now you get scared for a while.
It's like, "Jeez, am I cutting here
or am I cutting here?"
But then after a while, you start to realize
that there's great power in that, too.
D.W. Griffith was
the first great filmmaker...
to understand
the psychological importance of editing.
Working a decade after Porter,
he did more than anyone else...
to advance the storytelling tools
Porter had developed.
Griffith invented
and popularized techniques...
that established
the basic grammar of film.
His melodramas were the first
to draw audiences...
into the emotional world of his characters.
He certainly was the first man
to use the close-up in a big way.
It was so revolutionary that the producers,
when they saw this, were aghast.
They thought,
"You can't put this picture out like this.
"You can't cut
to this big, ugly shot of somebody.
"We're paying for this actor, this actress.
We wanna see their whole body.
"We don't wanna just see their face.
"Second of all, the audiences won't know
what to respond to.
"They're gonna be all confused."
Well, the proof is in the pudding
and the reality is...
that the audiences
were not confused at all.
Griffith brought it together in one
magnificent film, The Birth of a Nation...
and we saw the accumulation
of 10 years of editing knowledge...
put into a movie.
And all of a sudden,
you not only had close-ups...
but you had flashbacks...
parallel action...
and you had all sorts of things
being used to make the audience...
keep attention focused
on a certain part of the frame.
D.W. Griffith established
the tenets of classical film editing.
And classical film editing
relied on the concept of the invisible cut...
in which action would always be
continuous and fluid and moving.
The goal was to mask the cut
so the audience wouldn't notice...
and could forget
that they were watching a movie.
Let's take another look.
Notice how the gesture matches
from one shot to the next?
Griffith's seamless editing
is still practiced today...
and was the dominant editing style
in Hollywood movies for decades.
At last.
Look again. The cut is so smooth
that it's barely noticeable.
It's all for telling the story.
And all you wanna do is get the person
emotionally invested in the story.
So it becomes this invisible craft.
We call it "the invisible art."
And, indeed, it is.
I mean, the more invisible we are,
the better we're doing our job.
the invisible style of editing...
kept editors invisible
and unappreciated as well.
For years they have been
the best-kept secret of the movies.
The first cutters
were considered hands for hire...
rather than creative partners
in the filmmaking process.
They looked at the images
by holding the film up to the light.
Then they would check their work
by running it through a projector...
and making the necessary adjustments.
Griffith's main cutter
was Jimmy Edward Smith...
who virtually lived with him
at the studio...
where they worked far into the night
running the film shot during the day.
Later, Smith's wife Rose
joined the editing team.
The Smiths married
during the cutting of lntolerance.
For their honeymoon,
Griffith allowed them the weekend off.
- Lights.
- Needs about 20 minutes out of it.
The Kazan film The Last Tycoon
had a wonderful scene.
It was obviously the story
of Irving Thalberg.
And I always took that
as a wonderful metaphor...
about the editing process.
It's silent, it's anonymous.
What's Eddie, asleep?
The goddamn movie
even puts the editor to sleep.
He's not asleep, Mr. Brady.
What do you mean he's not asleep?
He's dead, Mr. Brady.
What do you mean he's dead?
He must have died...
How can he be dead?
We were just watching the rough cut.
Jesus, I didn't hear anything.
Did you hear anything?
Not a thing.
he probably didn't want to
disturb the screening, Mr. Brady.
Today, not only is the editor still alive...
but he has become
the director's key collaborator.
No other crew member...
spends as much time working alone
with the director.
Finding the relationship with the editor...
is like trying to decide
whether or not to get married.
Because if the marriage isn't a good one,
it's gonna be a sticky divorce.
When I was doing my first movie...
the only thing I knew
is I wanted a female editor.
'Cause I just felt a female editor
would be more nurturing...
to the movie and to me.
They wouldn't try to be winning their way
just to win their way.
They wouldn't be trying to shove their
agenda or win their battles with me.
They would be nurturing me
through this process.
- Give me your hand!
- She killed me, man.
Who would've fucking thought that?
I think editors play a big role
with directors in giving them support...
making them feel...
like they can look at something
that may have trouble or problems...
and be comfortable enough
so that they can approach those problems.
Hi, Vincent. I'm getting dressed.
In the beginning,
he really doesn't guide me...
and then I put together
what I think he wants.
And pretty much, we've worked together
so long, I can judge what he would want.
- What the fuck is this place?
- This is Jack Rabbit Slim's.
An Elvis man should love it.
- Come on, man, let's go get a steak.
- You can get a steak here, Daddy-O.
Don't be a...
After you, kitty cat.
Initially, I had it really long.
It was like a date in real time.
And it was Sally's job to kind of,
you know...
little by little,
convince me to bring it down...
and it still could be funny.
You'd still have what I'm talking about,
but maybe it wouldn't be so painful.
He did want it
to feel very much like a date...
and it was very long at first...
and we just had to
kind of live with it for a while.
Just like, you know,
letting me live with it long enough...
so I could eventually,
"I've had it enough. I've seen that enough.
"Maybe now I can lose this part.
"Okay, so it was like here,
and now it's like here."
Finally, we bring it down,
and then I brought it too far down...
and then he said,
"We gotta bring it back up."
"That's it. No more. This is not a video."
We do that for eight months, so intense.
I see him more than my husband.
And sometimes I get annoyed with her
for not reading my mind 100%.
It's not good enough that she reads it
80% of the time, all right.
We work very intensely together...
and it's kind of amazing
that we still like each other.
If I was with my husband that long,
I don't think I'd like him that much.
By the time I've thought of an idea,
written it...
found the financing, cast the film,
directed it...
I get to the cutting room
and it's like I've washed up on shore.
I'm so happy to be there,
'cause then I think:
"Now we can start making the film."
It's so hard to be a director,
and it's hard on the set.
By the time they come
into the cutting room the first week...
they're usually half the people they were
when they started out.
They're shells of the people they were.
And at least in my cutting room,
I try to make it very easygoing...
and try to heal them back into shape
so that they can get to work on the movie.
When Matthew Broderick is busted
from having thrown the election...
in Election...
he enters the principal's office...
and sees all the people gathered there
who know he's guilty.
Mr. McAllister, I hope you can help us
clear something up.
He wanted to cut it like the end sequence
of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly...
with holding on the faces for
a really long time with the swelling music.
And I was like, "No, let's cut it really fast
and build to a climax."
And I didn't wanna do that.
It was cheesy and would call
too much attention to itself.
And he just wouldn't wanna do it.
He wouldn't wanna
put it in the movie like that.
So finally, I said, "I'll pay you $25."
And I said, "No, let's not do that."
- I go, "Okay, $50."
- And I said, "No."
He's like, "No."
And I said, "$75."
So he even gave me an invoice,
and it says that I owe him $75.
So I paid him $75 to cut it in.
And that's how it is now.
I think successful editors...
are really sly politicians.
The Russian Revolution sparked
a revolution in film editing as well.
The crazy Russians start
fucking around with images...
and juxtaposing them
and creating different emotional effects.
Lenin saw film as the perfect medium...
to inspire his largely illiterate nation
to join the Revolution.
They took these films out
in the middle of the farmlands...
and showed them
to the farmers and peasants.
They began to understand...
that they could get
a certain emotional, psychological effect...
by a certain type of cutting
from one image to the next.
And that became a manipulation
of what the audience was feeling.
The Russian filmmakers...
rejected the bourgeois stories
and seamless editing practiced by Griffith.
Instead of melodrama,
they offered real life.
To make the film
Man with a Movie Camera...
documentary filmmaker Dziga Vertov
and his team...
took his cameras into the streets
to record a typical day in Moscow.
It's constantly reminding me
that I'm watching a movie.
There were scenes inside an editing room.
You see how they edited movies
back in 1929.
They were engaged
in a pure explosion of creative activity...
in manipulating these images.
Every modern editing convention
that we know of...
is demonstrated
in Man with a Movie Camera.
The film celebrated
not just the Revolution...
but the role of the cameraman
and the editor in helping to create it.
Vertov and his wife Elizaveta
cut their documentaries and newsreels...
in dark basements
with rats scuttling underfoot.
But in this film...
he made the editor as important
as any other worker in the Revolution.
The theoretician Lev Kuleshov
also experimented with film editing.
In his most famous study...
he took a shot of a Russian actor
and intercut it with three different objects. ;
a bowl of hot soup...
a distraught woman
draped across her husband's coffin...
and a little girl playing with a teddy bear.
When audiences saw the film,
they raved about the actor's performance. ;
how hungrily he looked at the soup...
how sorrowfully he gazed at the woman...
and how tenderly
he watched the little girl.
But, actually,
it was the same expression each time.
Now this demonstrates
the power of juxtaposition...
the power of montage...
by taking one shot and another shot
to give it a third meaning.
And the third meaning is, in effect,
an emotion that's much greater...
than the sum total of the two parts
that put it together in the first place.
And this is the basis of all editing,
by the way.
One of Kuleshov's contemporaries,
Sergei Eisenstein...
combined these experiments
with Marxist ideology...
to create films of revolutionary fervor.
He saw editing, like history,
as a clash of images and ideas.
The meaning of the film
was not in the shots themselves...
but in their collision.
"When two elements are in conflict,"
he argued...
"their collision sparks a new meaning
of higher order."
Where Griffith tried to hide his cuts,
Eisenstein reveled in them.
He wanted the audience
to feel the frame...
to know that this is a movie, not life.
Eisenstein is the first real director.
He killed himself in his staging...
he killed himself with his camerawork
and everything...
but it was all
at the service of the scissors...
every little, single, solitary bit of it.
I got a movie projector when I was 11...
and one of the first movies
I got was The Battleship Potemkin.
I just ran that Odessa Steps sequence
over and over again.
I couldn't believe what I was seeing.
One of the things that makes it incredible
is the editing...
the incredible juxtaposition of images.
What the Russians did was a response
to what Griffith had done.
Classical editing,
and now, Eisensteinian montage...
and you can take that further.
The American cinema has absorbed
all of that stuff from the Russians...
and now it's in our film.
The fact is that many of these techniques
have been appropriated...
into what we do every day as editors
right here in Hollywood, California...
making action pictures...
because we are also trying
to get a response from the audience.
We're also trying to get them to rise
out of their seats...
out of their complacency...
but not necessarily
for revolutionary purposes...
but just to really have a great time
in the movies.
Don't you fucking move!
Editing techniques the Soviets used to
convert their population to Communism...
now drive
Hollywood's action blockbusters.
- Where's the shot?
- What shot?
- Who took out the shot?
- Which shot is that?
The money shot. Bus driver's head.
The brains-on-the-window shot.
The bits-are-on-the-visor shot.
We thought we'd show it to you like this
without all that...
Put it back. Don't "show" me anything.
You don't need it.
You're not even giving it a chance.
How's the rearview-mirror gag
supposed to work without it?
Am I the only one here
who respects the writing?
You've got suspense
and you've got action.
I found a good combination
in the two Terminator films...
was to have a suspenseful build-up
to an action release.
In Terminator 2...
you have a slow, tense build-up
of these characters moving around...
closing in on the young John Connor.
Then he sees the Terminator for the first
time and it's all in slow motion.
I usually like to use
the slow motion in the build-up...
where it has this kind of protracted,
dream-like or nightmarish quality...
and then there's a cathartic break,
and then it kicks into gear.
Get down.
In a chase, something is going right
or something is going wrong.
And you wanna accentuate that.
Rhythm is one of the ways you do that.
You also wanna create peaks and valleys
in terms of rhythm.
Chases are a wonderful thing
to work on as an editor.
I wouldn't want to do them
as a steady diet...
but every now and then, it's great fun.
My favorite chase that I've ever worked on
was the Canal Chase...
as we called it, in Terminator 2.
Our ancestors were survivors.
Therefore, we're here.
And so there's something
plugged into our reptilian hindbrain...
that makes us relate to the idea
of being pursued and getting away.
So we get to go through
these kind of cathartic simulator runs...
while we watch a movie...
and we get to experience
that heart-pounding fear of being chased.
It's a natural form of excitement.
Editing can hone that, sharpen that.
The tempo of the cuts,
the variety of shots that are used.
The changing image sizes
of the character's reactions, eyes.
All these things are in the palette.
By manipulation and juxtaposition...
you can increase the excitement.
This is the first thing: I'm standing up...
which allows me a considerable amount
of freedom of movement.
And it also means that I'm "sprung."
I guess that's the only word for it.
And frequently,
when I'm looking at the cut...
I will stand here...
with my hand on the controls
almost like a gunslinger...
and trying to hit the point of the cut...
with my knees bent.
And somehow, this is important for me...
because it allows me
to internalize the rhythms...
the visual rhythms of what's happening.
At this point,
we've started with a blank slate.
So, the question is,
what are we gonna start with?
That looks like a good possibility.
It establishes things.
So there's Anthony saying, "Action,"
and they start to come forward.
We could begin it anywhere in here...
but see, there now,
somebody falls right here.
And that's good. Falling is good.
We will edit this shot into the timeline.
There it is.
In the end, there will be
probably 5,000 shots in the film.
And all of them...
have to ultimately be the right shot...
in the right place,
for the right length of time.
When I was watching Nosferatu
when I was a kid...
our main guy is up in the castle,
and night has fallen...
and we're very suspicious
something's about to happen...
and we see Nosferatu down the hall.
That section is what scared me the most.
And in terms of editing,
it caught my attention because of this:
We saw this vampire
with pointy teeth and scary eyes...
very far away down a hallway,
and then we cut to our guy.
He's very scared, and we cut back.
He's six feet away from us.
He's just on the other side of the door.
Every time I saw it, I was very scared.
And I remember waiting for that moment
of being surprised.
When people come into a theater...
they're already keenly aware
of their own fears.
It's like, "Let's gather round the campfire
and listen to the shaman talk."
The screen being the fire.
We'll sit in a circle.
We'll be in the darkness.
We'll be in a dreamlike state.
We'll be connected to strangers...
in a way that we're normally not
in the rest of our culture.
And we'll feel things in unison.
The opening sequence of Scream
is almost a film in itself.
It is kind of whacking the audience
upside the head in 15 minutes...
where you introduce a character,
develop her, endear her to the audience...
and then kill her unexpectedly.
That's a matter of yourself and your editor
sitting there and thinking:
"What is that audience,
that phantom audience...
"that you imagine in your mind, thinking?"
It's all judgment calls.
It's all about rhythm.
It's all about getting that part of it right...
so that there's no moment
where they feel quite easy...
no moment where they feel they can know
exactly what's coming next.
Hitchcock was one of the first directors
I was aware of as a kid.
When Psycho came out, it caused a buzz
in the neighborhood among the parents.
And I remember my mother saying:
"It's this horrible old man,
he makes these horrible movies."
I just said, "Really?"
But it was a sense of the totally forbidden
and somebody who'd crossed the line.
So later when I saw his films...
it was kind of the delight of seeing
this kind of savage wit, if you will...
that beneath,
in Hitchcock's case especially...
the very urbane,
sophisticated, civilized veneer...
was this kind of feral, quick animal...
that knew exactly where the jugular was...
and kind of delighted
in the taste of the blood.
Hitchcock was the master of suspense.
Jonathan Demme
was devoted to Hitchcock...
and his influence can clearly be seen
in The Silence of the Lambs.
Suspense is really an expression of fear.
We can build that in our storytelling
by withholding information.
Frankly, it's a manipulation.
But in using that manipulation,
it also empowers the story.
Not knowing
where we're going to go next...
is the thing
that human beings hate the most.
We'd all like to know where we're going,
if it's gonna be all right.
My editing process is an intuitive process.
It's what feels truthful.
It's what feels strong and it's what works.
And you hear this from a lot of editors.
Dede Allen always used to say to me,
"I cut with my gut."
And she's right.
Three riders!
Just over that hill!
There's a mismatch here...
and I'm gonna have to determine
whether this is a problem or not...
because Brown
is looking toward camera...
but when we cut,
he's looking up off to the left.
We can have Jeremy come in and cut...
so that Jeremy's head
is masking Brown's head...
so that the mismatch is not seen.
And now I'm going to mark this frame...
and I'm gonna get rid of this area...
which is three frames.
And now I'm going to look at it in context
and see how it looks.
Three riders!
Just over that hill!
You have to have the personality
that enjoys that...
It's almost like
making little pieces of jewelry.
That patience of the individual shots
and how they're crafted together...
but at the same time, you have to have
an appreciation for the larger picture...
and how these shots fit
into the larger picture of the scene...
and then how the scene fits
into the larger picture of the sequence...
and how the sequence fits together with
the larger picture of the whole work...
and then how the work
fits together with society.
So it's boxes within boxes within boxes.
In the 1930s,
movies became an even bigger business.
The movie studios
introduced sound films...
and radically reshaped moviemaking.
Hollywood retooled itself
on the model of the factory assembly line.
The studios cranked out movies
with almost the same speed...
that Henry Ford mass-produced cars.
Stay where you are, all of you.
"I don't want it good,"
Jack Warner declared, "I want it Tuesday."
You now needed an industrial system
to make this all work.
In the first 20, 25, 30 years of cinema...
large numbers of editors were women.
It was considered to be a woman's job...
because it was something like knitting.
It was something like tapestry, sewing...
that you took these pieces of fabric,
which is what films are...
and you put them together.
It was when sound came in...
that the men began to infiltrate
the ranks of the editors...
because sound was somehow electrical.
It was technical. It was no longer knitting.
There is the soundtrack,
which might be several tracks...
and the image.
And without the happy marriage
of those two...
you're not using every bit of potential
that you possibly can in editing a movie.
The scene in Horse Whisperer where
Sam Neill and Kristin Scott Thomas...
An argument results
because she is gonna leave.
The intent of the scene was to show
that the marriage was foundering...
and it was dialogue basically overlapping
as they were speaking.
So they were both miked.
To make it even more dramatic,
I even took out more air...
and made the overlaps more intense.
I could do that because I had
separate tracks to work with.
Are you a psychiatrist?
He says it takes time.
Well, I don't care what he says.
I cannot sit here and pretend
everything's gonna be all right.
I am not pretending, I am trusting...
We are losing. We are losing her!
In effect, by taking out all the air
in that particular dialogue scene...
it did have kind of a suffocating effect
because there was no respite...
there was no air there.
You couldn't draw a breath.
And it became that much more intense
because of it.
To me, sound is very important.
I create a sound template
that is both with sound effects...
and temporary music
that evokes certain feelings.
I've worked with Per Hallberg,
who's a sound designer...
and with Ridley Scott.
For example, in Black Hawk Down...
the incursion of the Black Hawks
entering into Mogadishu.
It was almost like a ballet,
a science-fiction ballet...
people landing on a different planet.
I was not interested in hearing
all the helicopters, only music.
Showing it
from a subjective point of view.
So this idea of science fiction,
when I was putting the scene together...
just inspired me to use almost no sound.
I remember that the real Black Hawk pilots
wanted to see the footage.
So, one day I just showed them
an assembly.
They were really moved.
One guy, there was a tear in his eye,
and he says...
"I don't know. This looks great.
I got goose bumps."
These were the guys that were there...
and it felt real to them.
There was this scene in Dante's Peak...
where Pierce Brosnan has to walk back
through a long tunnel to his truck...
and the tunnel is about to collapse.
And you hear the sound,
the little sound of sand...
falling down the walls.
So at one point,
the music editor asked me for the scene...
and she proceeded to put music on it...
and I looked at it and I said,
"That doesn't work at all."
Because suddenly I'm hearing music...
and I'm not hearing all that stuff,
that tiny little sand thing...
that makes me scared.
If you were in a really dangerous situation,
your ears would be so open...
and hearing every little tiny, tiny sound.
If it just has music smooshed over it...
you know, it takes away that sense
of listening with all your might.
I mean, if I were the character, I'd say,
"Turn that off! I can't hear."
The advent of sound
expanded the editor's role in Hollywood.
During the '30s and '40s...
directors rarely came
into the cutting room.
The editing was controlled by the studios
and their supervising editors.
One of the most powerful
was Margaret Booth...
supervising editor at MGM for 30 years.
Mastering the transition to sound...
she caught the attention
of legendary producer Irving Thalberg...
who was the first to call cutters
"film editors"...
starting with Booth herself.
She oversaw all the production
but had a say in almost every one.
Maggie was probably the toughest
and most feared woman at MGM.
People would shudder when they'd hear
that she was on the phone...
or she'd bust into the editing room...
or you'd get a call, "Come down
to Room F," which is her room.
You'd think, "God, what have I done now?"
Margaret would tell the editors. ;
"It's your responsibility
for the pace of the movie.
"It's your responsibility to get
the best performances out of your actors.
"It's your responsibility
to make it as good as you can."
Margaret Booth, she used to say:
"If I feel there's a cut at a certain spot...
"whether it matches or not, cut.
"If you cut for the emotion...
"you will get away with so much
by doing that."
And I would hear her
really yell at different editors...
who would say, "It doesn't match."
She'd say, "I don't care. Cut."
Booth, like other great studio editors
of the era...
helped create many of the stars
of the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Editors today are still doing the same.
We totally control the performance
of an actor in the cutting room, actually.
A lot of them won't admit that.
Most actors learn early on that the editor
is the one to make friends with...
'cause their performance depends
a great deal on the editor...
and the taste and the talent of the editor.
We'll see dailies, and Take 5
is spectacular. It is great.
But there's also something wonderful
in Take 7, and Take 4 and Take 3.
Sometimes, an actor
will see it onscreen and say:
"That was terrific. You used Take 5."
They don't know, they don't realize...
that you are borrowing
from every single performance...
and the editor is the person
who is responsible...
for finding those moments
in each performance.
You talk about Basic Instinct,
I think, to a large degree...
that the great performance
that Sharon is giving there...
is also constructed...
by Frank.
He spent an enormous amount of time...
in selecting every part of every take...
that he felt was important.
In cutting the interrogation sequence...
using the basic scenes that were
back and forth from the dialogue...
the scene would be fairly dull.
I had to create her looks and his looks.
They were manufactured.
They weren't really shot that way.
I would take a piece...
of Michael looking at her
from a different part of the scene...
and a piece of her looking at him
from a different part of the scene.
I don't make any rules, Nick.
I go with the flow.
Sharon asked if she could see it,
and I said, "Yeah, it's done."
And Sharon came upstairs and said,
"You must remove that scene."
And I said, "What scene?"
And she says, "You know the scene.
In the interrogation."
But they were all afraid, I think, that
these shots would hurt her performance.
And even Sharon, I think,
still thinks now...
that she lost the Oscar nomination
because of these shots.
And I said, "Sharon,
that scene is gonna make you a star."
And Paul said to her:
"You shot it. You know what I was doing...
"and basically, I like it. And it works."
Then, you know, the rest is history.
Most actors' idea of a well-edited movie...
is a movie that has a lot of the actor in it,
particularly in close-up.
And that could cause me a lot of grief,
but what the heck.
I knew an actor who used to read a script
basically this way:
He would say, "Blah-blah-blah. My line."
And he'd read it, "Blah-blah-blah."
Steven Seagal was an action hero,
who, on Under Siege 2...
I felt would break me in half.
He was allowed into the cutting room
to cut the action sequences.
I thought that's all he was gonna do.
But his first time
he came into the cutting room...
he said, "Okay, put up reel one."
He was gonna go through
the whole movie.
But there was a time
when during one of the fight sequences...
that I found myself
with my arm behind my head...
and Seagal was demonstrating on me
what he did.
And he's a big guy, plus he carries a gun.
I think, ultimately,
he did like his performances.
But the fact that an actor
came into the cutting room...
created an antagonistic relationship
with the director...
and as editor, I was caught in the middle.
I have a friend who did a picture...
where there was a comedian in the film
who had final cut over only his scenes.
And he had decided recently...
that he didn't want to be
a knock-about comedian anymore.
He wanted to be
a Cary Grant-style comedian.
So he came into the editing room
and cut out all of the pratfalls...
and all of the physical shtick
that he had done in the picture...
which obviously didn't help the movie any.
I have never let an actor
into the editing room to have feedback.
I think, in general,
this is how I feel as an actor.
Even though I love the cutting room
and nothing would make me happier...
than to sit there and watch them
do their stuff, I feel it's inappropriate.
I feel like that's the time for the director
to have with the editor.
Home for the Holidays was about a mess,
it was about a holiday mess...
it was about a family that was a mess,
about chaos and anarchy in the family.
The centerpiece
is this Thanksgiving dinner scene...
and everybody's gathered
around the table...
and everybody's crazies
are all over the place.
Jodie Foster, of course, attracted
the most wonderful bunch of actors...
who, just working with her,
they left their ego on the doorstep.
Nothing makes us happier...
than to walk into a scene
where there's six different actors...
they all have different styles
of performance...
maybe even different pacing...
and somehow figure out a way
to weave them all together.
Lynzee and I will sit there and say,
"What do you think she's thinking now?
"Is she thinking,
'How do I get the hell out of here? '
"Or, 'I really like this guy
and I'm kind of attracted to him. "'
We'd get so into very obscure behavior.
We'd see the deep meaning
the actor had brought to the character...
in terms of whether
they picked up their fork...
before or after the spoon was picked up.
"Now what did that mean?"
And, of course, each little meaningless
gesture adds up to a full performance.
When I got the dailies...
I assumed that everything she shot...
were things she intended
to be on the screen.
And I enjoy the challenge of that,
of just trying to use everything.
At one point, a turkey gets pushed
and splashes on someone.
Every time we looked at it,
we would try it a different way.
Now, you can have the guy who's doing it
on his close-up...
and then have the turkey splash...
or the turkey splashes,
you see the reaction shot.
You can go a billion ways.
One of the things
that I love about Lynzee...
is that she's one of these people...
who really sees that there is
a beautiful and sunny place out there.
If we could just get to it,
it's there somewhere.
There are periods within the editorial
process that I will hand it over...
not only to my editor...
but, at times, to my lead actor.
First of all, if you have Jack Nicholson
starring in your movie...
and you call somebody, an actor, up,
and say:
"Would you like to spend two days
working with Mr. Nicholson...
"or do you have
something better to do?"...
he usually gets a good response.
When Jay and I feel that we've really got
the picture in a great place...
and it's particularly easy
now that we're editing electronically...
where I'll have Jack come into the
editing room with Jay and I'll check out.
And he'll bring Jack in and run the movie,
even run outtakes...
and talk about if there's a take
that we didn't use.
He did something interesting that he
remembered, why didn't we use it?
What Nicholson did at the end...
was a Nicholsonian construct.
The disjointed nature
of the cutting is on purpose.
You imagine this guy
who's taken the only love...
that had been possible in his life...
and squandered it
for what was his own personal obsession.
If you've written it smartly,
you have a smart actor playing it.
And that actor, when it's Jack Nicholson,
can be very helpful in the cutting room.
I find that with the actors,
in most of the pictures I made...
we kind of nail it on the set, usually...
and invariably, looking at rushes,
I'll tell Thelma, "That's the take."
Then she'll feel a certain thing
for some other takes...
and we line it up that way.
Because we grew up in the cina vit?
period of documentary filmmaking...
it was a marked influence
on how we work.
For example, I found it extremely helpful...
when Marty's doing
heavy improvisational films...
like Raging Bull or Goodfellas...
that my years of trying to carve a story...
out of a mass of documentary footage...
helped me wade
through miles of improvisation...
and begin to find a way to shape it.
Of course, in a film like Raging Bull...
De Niro and Joe Pesci were remarkable
to watch kicking off each other.
I wanted to have a very open, honest
approach to the imagery and the story...
in the scenes that were not in the ring
in Raging Bull...
and that came a lot
from a kind of wiping away...
of all technique
that I had thought about before...
and going back to a sort of an impact
that I had when I was about 5 or 6...
having seen Italian neorealist films on TV:
Pais? Open City and The Bicycle Thief.
You're supposed to be a manager,
supposed to know what you're doing.
I did what I wanted to do.
- That's what I'm worried about, you...
- You want a title shot?
What are you talking...
What am I, in a circus over here?
I ask him, he's got more sense about this.
What are you doing?
You been killing yourself
for three years now, right?
There's nobody left for you to fight.
Everybody's afraid to fight you.
Okay. Along comes this kid, Janiro.
He don't know any better.
He's a young kid, up and coming.
He'll fight anybody.
Good. You fight him. Bust his hole.
Tear him apart. Right?
What's the biggest thing
you got to worry about, your weight?
- I'm worried about the weight.
- The weight?
What're we arguing for?
I just said the weight.
That was one of the hardest things
I've ever had to do...
because I only had one camera
on the actor at all times.
So I didn't have the response,
the immediate response of the actor...
so it meant that I had to put it together
like a jigsaw puzzle.
It was a lot of fun, but it took a long time.
Ultimately, what I think I need her
to watch for me...
is the emotional impact of the picture...
keeping track, emotionally,
of the characters.
This is the key for me.
I always find the editor
has more objectivity than the director.
'Cause the editor wasn't on the set.
The editor didn't cast the movie.
The editor didn't do the storyboards.
The editor didn't inundate him or herself...
with a year and a half of pre-production.
So the editor has the most objective eye...
in that creative environment.
I remember one night, I go over
to Steven's house in Poland.
I said, "Steve, I want to run
this scene for you." And he says:
"Okay," and I run the scene.
He looks at me.
He says, "I'll see you in the morning."
He walked out.
He was so emotionally involved
with the scene...
he couldn't believe that he shot it,
it was so real.
We were all terribly affected by the film.
There's something inside that takes over...
when it's very emotional, when there are
problems in people's lives.
Something emotional takes over
that's beyond your conscious mind.
It seemed like an extreme example,
but when you're editing that kind of film...
you have to disassociate.
You have to see each thing as a scene
and you build a scene and do the best...
you can with each scene. When it melds
together that's when you get the full force.
I think this scene in Schindler's List
really illustrates the importance of...
emotion through film editing.
It's the scene
where they have a drink together...
the first drink they've shared
because Stern has refused to drink with...
Schindler until this moment.
There is just a pacing that is so...
emotional for me.
So profoundly, deeply felt.
this is all going to end, you know.
I was going to say, we'll have a drink then.
I think I'd better have it now.
Mike Kahn's choices of how long to let
the characters look at each other and...
study each other, and think about how
they're feeling, that was all done in...
the editing room. It wasn't in the script
and it wasn't on the floor the day I shot it.
That whole emotional,
kind of, meeting of the minds...
between those two great men
happened in the editing room.
In dialogue scenes,
I like people looking at each other.
I like eyes to meet.
And so they're getting into each other
and you're connecting.
For me, I'm always having problems...
cutting long scenes
where people talk to each other.
'Cause you've got...
an unlimited amount of choices
and opportunities...
when you just have two talking heads.
The scene can go many different ways.
The drama could become comedy.
Pathos could become tragedy.
It could become, you know, kind of like...
a grilling session or a deposition...
if you cut it really fast, or it can be
very leisurely and introspective...
if you used a lot of thought and a lot
of the breaths and air and the pauses...
not just the words. And that's where
a great film editor can help a director.
Another way of looking at film editing
is that it's a dance of eyes.
Philip Seymour Hoffman's eye is looking.
That's a good thing.
Now, let's cut to a close-up
of Hoffman looking...
and the close-up of Hoffman is here.
We've never seen this angle before, so...
the brain has to figure out what it's
looking at and maybe why it's looking...
at it. And to the degree that...
you hold shots...
a certain length, you allow
a certain train of thoughts to happen.
When you cut a shot off...
you've also cut off
the thinking about that shot.
Now, we want to cut to what he sees
because that's how we're going to...
understand what he's thinking about.
Now there you see him thinking and...
then his eye goes down.
So let's rerun that at speed.
Point of view.
Thinking. Other co-conspirator.
"Let's do it, now."
"What?" "Let's go.
Oops, something's up. Don't do it."
And we go.
There's something about film,
because of its sensory completeness...
the fact that it is sound and image...
in this powerful fusion...
that gets at something
very deep within us.
Filmmakers realized that sound
and image didn't just stimulate emotions.
They could also influence beliefs.
During WWll, the U.S. Government
enlisted Hollywood's best.
Editors and directors brought with them
the same techniques they had used...
in fiction films to stir audiences
across America.
I pledge allegiance to the flag...
of the United States of America.
The Hollywood recruits applied their
skill to American propaganda films...
such as Why We Fight.
Both German and American
political leaders...
recognized how powerfully sound
and picture can manipulate audiences.
One of the most infamous examples
of film used for political propaganda...
was Triumph of the Will.
Director Leni Riefenstahl...
used sound, music,
and masterful editing...
to make Adolf Hitler into a god.
When the Allies went to war against
Germany, British editor Charles Ridley...
re-edited the same footage
to turn Hitler into a fool.
Whether used for propaganda
or entertainment...
these techniques showed how powerfully
editing could shape hearts and minds.
I'd seen the German propaganda
in Holland when we were occupied.
The methodology of the whole thing is,
of course, to show...
only one side of reality.
Young people from all over the globe
are joining up to fight for the future.
I'm doing my part.
I'm doing my part.
I'm doing my part.
I'm doing my part, too.
You know, Starship Troopers is,
style-wise, as a movie...
has been influenced consciously by...
Why We Fight in WWII...
Triumph of the Will.
I used the Leni Riefenstahl touch...
just to tell the audience this group
of people is not aware of the fact...
that they are used by the government...
to give their lives for goals that are...
only interesting to the government.
Fresh meat for the grinder?
So, how'd you kids do?
I'm going to be a pilot.
Well, good for you.
We need all the pilots we can get.
I think the theme of the movie is:
"Come on, it's great.
Let's go to war and die."
What about you, son?
Infantry, sir.
Good for you. Mobile infantry
made me the man I am today.
In editing, you can do the same trick.
It's all trying to sell us something.
Manipulation that's done by editing...
manipulation done
by the glamorous photography...
and by a certain kind of music
that makes you think...
that you are going to Heaven or whatever.
The manipulation of the elements
within a film is a very powerful thing.
It's almost a sacred thing, in a way,
because you're creating effects...
you're creating responses in the audience.
Editing is manipulation.
We're manipulating reality...
as the audience sees it, 'cause you want
the audience to respond in a certain way.
Whether it's a laugh or a sigh...
or a fright...
everything's manipulated.
Some people say, "This director,
he's manipulated the audience."
Well, that's so naive
because that's all we do, is manipulate.
After WWll, Hollywood continued
to make movies the same way it had...
before the war.
Although editors were now unionized...
they were viewed, for the most part,
as highly skilled mechanics.
There was a man named Owen Marks...
he edited
The Petrified Forest, Casablanca...
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,
East Of Eden.
His films are immortal
and the man is completely unknown.
It's sort of symbolic of the way...
editors have been ignored...
in the...
literature about Hollywood.
Editors worked on Cutter's Row...
and were expected to conform
to the established rules of editing.
If we were to think about the films
that were being made...
there was a certain film language
that was very distinct.
Certain kinds of coverage. Long shot.
Single, single.
There was almost a formulaic way
of presenting films.
This film language was very strict.
And in editorial terms, there were rules...
that one felt could not be broken.
A master shot had to come first and
then if you had an over-shoulder...
you went to the over-shoulder.
You never went to the close-up...
till you'd done the whole dance,
coming from far to close.
For instance, if you were going to have
a transition from one place to the next...
it would be done with a dissolve.
The next thing you've got to remember
is that a gentleman you meet among...
the cold cuts is simply not as attractive
as one you meet...
in the mink department at Bergdorf's.
In the '40s and '50s, the audience
would expect a character to drive up...
you'd show him getting out of the car
and he would walk up to the building.
Then he would open the door
and then the editor would match cut...
the door opening on the other side.
And he would walk in...
and come over and sit down.
- Pull up a chair.
- Thanks.
This seemed to me absolutely stupid
that you had to show somebody coming...
down the stairs and all the way across
the road and up the other side.
You knew that they were coming
from here and they were going to there.
Why couldn't you just cut directly?
In France, a group of film-critics-
turned-directors also challenged...
the doctrine of invisible editing
and launched a revolution among editors.
When I first saw the French
Nouvelle Vague, I instantly loved it.
I loved the idea.
I loved the way they edited...
and thought I would like to cut like that.
Godard used jump cuts
because it was like, "Why not?
"Nothing interesting's happening in
the middle part so let's go to a jump cut."
When I saw Breathless, I was staggered
at Godard's brutality.
What they brought to editing
was a breaking of the rules.
Whatever books that said, "This is how
it had to be done," they burned them.
Breathless is too hip for me.
I come from the Lower East Side.
I'm an Italian-American guy.
It was, it's too beat, beatnik.
It's like, bohemian.
It's too cool. I liked it. I didn't know
what the hell was happening in it.
You know, when I first saw
Breathless in the '60s...
it's like, wow.
I mean, just in the first five-minute
sequence in introducing...
Jean-Paul Belmondo's character
as this petty thief...
every rule was violated in terms
of how long to hold the shots...
the discontinuity of what was going on.
Even screen directions were mixed.
And I thought, "Either this guy
doesn't know what he's doing or he's...
"so confident that he has the grammar
of film down, that he's trying to show us...
"a new way to use the material
he has to tell the story."
There were some films
that really changed our perception...
of what...
filmmaking was and certainly
it affected what editing was.
I think one of those seminal films is
certainly something like Bonnie and Clyde.
Some people say I broke those rules first.
I certainly did not.
I mean, the Russians broke those rules...
and the Germans broke those rules.
This was nothing new.
But it was new for Hollywood.
Several editors have had
big impacts on me, have...
influenced my thinking.
Dede Allen certainly is one who has
taught me that. ; "Don't be afraid to...
"take a chance on doing something that
doesn't seem like it's going to work."
When Beatty and Faye Dunaway get
to know each other, they're standing...
on a street corner and she says,
"I don't believe you rob banks."
And he said, "Yes, I do, look at my gun,"
and pulls it out...
and holds it to her on the street corner.
And that could easily have been done
with the tilt down to the gun, the pan...
over to her hands fidgeting
with the Coke bottle, up to her face...
but it was done in,
her eyes look from him...
down, gun, back to him.
It keeps you on edge.
There is the excitement.
There is the danger.
There is the eroticism in not being...
able to fully get every moment
because you're cutting it off.
And you are not allowing
the moment to come to fruition.
Bonnie and Clyde was much more violent
than anything we'd done because...
the Americans like violence
much more than we do.
Well, it was shot in so many wonderful
ways because this is the scene that...
Arthur intended to be...
cut in this fashion.
The fact that it was
so beautifully executed...
right from the very first cut.
Jerry Greenberg was my assistant.
And on the last scene, I left Jerry alone
with that scene and he did all...
the primary editing on that.
All I did was tighten it later.
Again, one is not saying that this was the
beginning of the American New Wave...
because one is sure that there were
smaller films before that.
But this was the one that,
like Birth of a Nation...
which suddenly an audience
sort of said, "Wow."
Bonnie and Clyde paved the way
for films like Easy Rider.
So I had only had one feature under
my belt. We started on Easy Rider.
I was editing while they were traveling.
Footage was flowing in by the mile.
It was great, exciting. It was different
than anything I'd been involved in.
You asshole.
These transitions that everybody
remembers, going from one scene...
to the next, where it flashes forward
to the scene, flashes back...
to the scene you're in.
Dennis didn't want a straight cut.
I didn't want dissolves.
So we kept throwing that around.
And it was Dennis who cooked part
of the idea which was, "What if we...
"went and then came back?"
And I said, "Yeah, but let's do it...
"three times."
Then we finally arrived at the length.
Each one is six frames. I said, "Now
we can use these whenever we want to."
Well, as it turned out,
it started to become a device.
So we stopped doing that.
I said, "No, we aren't going to do that.
"We'll only use it in special places."
Without giving anything away...
everybody was stoned
when they were shooting.
I learned soon on
that I could not be stoned and edit.
While it was going on,
I thought it was grand.
Then I'd look at it when I was straight
and I'd say, "This is awful.
"I gotta throw it out and start all over."
This film has become an icon.
I'm grateful that I had
something to do with it.
Because I had grown up
in the '30s, '40s, and '50s...
with movies as they were then.
And finally, we were going to run it
for Columbia...
with Leo Jaffe, Chairman of the Board.
It ended.
There was this long pause.
Leo finally stands up.
Then he says:
"I don't know
what the fuck this picture means.
"But I know we're going to make
a fuck of a lot of money."
One of the things you have to develop
as an editor...
is a very strong intuition about...
where is their attention.
under most ordinary circumstances...
you're carrying that attention around...
without doing violence to it.
It's like a cup full of liquid
that you're carrying.
"I don't want to spill anything."
And as a result, people feel the invisibility
of what you're doing.
I often forget that what he actually does...
is assemble the film in a technical way...
because most of our discussion's
about: "Why aren't we caring as much...
"about this character now
as we were two scenes ago?
"Why have we lost the thread
of that character's development?
"Why does it feel
like the end decelerates...
"when, in fact,
the cutting rhythm is faster?"
But a lot of what a director does...
is what the immune system
of the organism does...
which is to say, "Yes, that's good.
"I will allow this to come into the body."
Or, "No, that's a different blood type.
"I don't want that to come in."
Walter's theories?
I'd say, every day
Walter shares a theory with me.
So they're going up, trying to get away
from him before he catches them.
Then the cavalry come around the corner.
And Veasey,
the Philip Seymour Hoffman character...
realizes that his only chance
now is to yell...
and maybe the Northerners
will shoot the home guard.
And Brown shoots him in the back.
Shoots one of the other guys.
And they all roll down the hill.
Then Brown gets shot.
And the last image is of Inman, our hero...
in this pile of bodies. We don't know
whether he's dead or what.
Sex scenes, in general, I think,
are probably difficult for everyone.
Difficult for writers, difficult for actors,
difficult for directors.
It's the most intimate sort of moments
that humans can have together...
and you're saying, "Actually,
let's put it on a 40-foot screen...
"for a few thousand people."
One of the things I wanted to do with
Body Heat was make a very sexy movie.
There had been a whole liberation
in American movies in the '60s and '70s...
about what you could show.
But as that freedom took over...
it seemed to me that the movies
had become less erotic.
They had become more explicit.
Larry really wanted me to bring
a woman's sensibility to the film...
largely in having it be as implicit
as possible as opposed to explicit.
After all, eroticism is born
out of what you can imagine...
as opposed to what you actually see.
That's the difference between
eroticism and pornography.
You need,
not just this incredible technician...
this artist, but you need a psychologist.
Someone who can handle you.
Because a director,
in the quiet confines of that room...
is like a caged animal.
In that particular scene...
we had more footage
that was more explicit...
and there was simply
an editorial choice not to show it.
The erotic landscape in films,
the sexual landscape...
is often the hardest to do
because everybody has an opinion.
And everybody has a point of view
about what's sexy and what's erotic.
And it's an odd place to go to,
as a filmmaker...
partly because it's been trespassed into
so many times by so many other movies.
I think it's very erotic
when you don't see that much.
It was an interesting problem
with Out of Sight.
The way it was written
was just one scene in the bar.
So I cut the scene where they meet...
and he sits down and talks to her
and they start flirting.
And then the scene in the bedroom
was only shot silently...
because it was going to have the dialogue
from the first scene laid over it anyway.
So it didn't work as a scene.
Then we got the idea, Steven Soderbergh
and I, sort of between us...
to start intercutting.
We just tried one or two things
and it started to gel.
Flashing back,
sometimes we flash forward.
I would say, "Let's do this and cut
from here and the hands." And he'd say:
"Let's try overlaying the dialogue
here." We just did it together.
It was really exciting.
We did this little thing
of stopping the frames.
It's never really a long freeze.
It's just a few frames that we freeze.
Just heighten the sexual tension
between the two of them.
It tells a story. It's very emotional.
It's very sexual, I think,
without really showing much.
Some other films I've done
have shown more.
. -You went to see her?
- To warn her about Chino.
- So she did help you?
- We shouldn't get into that.
You know,
when they're undressing separately...
and we've got odd dialogue
over the undressing.
Nothing to do with what
they're actually doing. Yet, I think...
that it's really good
and very good storytelling.
This kind of cutting in Out of Sight
and in movies like JFK...
represents a further break from
Griffith's classic style of seamless editing.
You gotta start thinking
on a different level, like the CIA does.
Where editors once labored to preserve
the illusion of continuous time and space...
they now fracture it at will,
creating new possibilities for storytelling.
...exactly what he said he was. A patsy.
Oliver Stone is a very wonderful director
for an editor because...
he gives the editor free rein.
He says to the editor, "Play jazz.
"Just go free form."
There is a scene in JFK where...
Oswald walks from a house to a theater...
and he said, "When you cut this scene
just make it very chaotic."
So I cut the scene in what I thought
was a chaotic way...
and I showed him the next day
and he said "No, no, no.
"It's gotta be way more chaotic than that."
Since we cut JFK on a three-quarter inch
linear editing system...
one thing it had was the ability
to hit these buttons...
and change where the edit went.
So I sat there and just banged
on the keys like this...
and I showed it to him the next day
and he went, "That's it!" It's in the movie.
In xXx, I did have
a new editing philosophy.
I had been interested in Cubism all my life.
And one day I was watching
extreme sports videos.
Somebody will do some amazing stunt.
They'll do it in reverse and do it forward
and then they'll do it in reverse.
I suddenly thought, "What if I did it
in so many angles...
"that I didn't care whether you saw
the beginning of a stunt...
"from four different angles?"
And the way we would cut it
you would feel...
that you were going around
the event in pieces...
so that by the time
that motorcycle lands...
you've actually experienced the jump...
almost as if you're on the motorcycle...
as opposed to standing back
at a safe distance...
observing the event
like you would in real life.
This is not real life.
This is really relishing...
this action moment...
by making a Cubist editing approach.
Another change in editing
is the accelerated pace of movies...
a subject of controversy
among filmmakers.
An encounter with two swords
30 years ago...
would have been probably done in
a master shot and a couple of exchanges.
Today that encounter could evolve
into 200 shots.
Split-second eye blink.
A blade going into a chest.
Slight movement of a wrist.
So the audience is taken right down...
into this roller-coaster ride of minutiae.
And that's what they want.
Because kids today are raised
on television and then MTV...
and commercials...
they not only can
process information faster...
and understand what images mean,
but that they demand it.
I think the MTV generation in the '80s
kind of...
created this style of editing.
And Billy Weber and I on Top Gun,
we were pushed in that direction.
Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson were
very much in tune with their audiences.
They felt that
that was what the audiences liked.
And I think they were proven right...
given the box-office
on some of those early movies.
And I mean fast cutting
was not invented now or with MTV.
Just look at Lou Lombardo's work
on The Wild Bunch.
Sometimes a cutting style is effective
inside of a movie...
to shake you up and rattle your soul.
But consistently to have that style...
pounding away at you like a metronome
on high speed for two and a half hours...
is a little bit, at least for me,
maybe I'm just getting old...
but it's a little bit debilitating.
Now, it doesn't bother my kids.
Because my kids were raised on
30-second commercials and on MTV...
and VH1 and they were raised
on video games.
I feel like I was born 80
and I'm growing backwards.
So now I'm somewhere around 27.
You know, I get a tattoo...
and I'm feeling closer
to a generation that has...
learned to absorb information
at a speed that was...
heretofore unthinkable...
and where their rhythms are well...
more hungry
than a traditional narrative pace.
What I'm afraid of is the tendency
for everything to go by quickly.
And I'm afraid of what it does
to the culture.
A sense of consuming something
and throwing it away...
as opposed to being enveloped
with something.
Of taking the time to see and experience
time in a different way.
First, one understands...
that he causes
much of his own suffering needlessly.
Second, he looks for the reasons
for this in his own life.
To look is to have confidence
in one's own ability to end the suffering.
Finally, a wish arises
to find the path to peace.
For all beings desire happiness.
All wish to find their purer selves.
Many times editing
is about when not to cut.
When to have the silence.
When to let the moment be itself.
The musicality of Places in the Heart,
is one of the things that is the strongest.
And I don't mean the score.
I mean the musicality in the way
that the scenes flow together...
the ambience
of that rural Texas summer...
hot, with the cicadas...
and there's
a Foursquare Protestant feeling.
After her husband has been shot by this
drunk black kid on the railroad tracks...
there were no funeral parlors,
you couldn't afford one anyway...
in the Depression...
the body was brought back to the home
and laid out on the dining room table...
where they just had Sunday dinner.
An incredibly moving moment.
And we just held on her.
We would have been married
15 years this October.
We had two children...
and I never knew till just now
Royce had a scar right there.
And it was just exquisite,
moving, beautiful.
If we had cut it,
it would have destroyed everything.
Editing is like poetry. It has to do
with rhythms, with visual...
It's visual poetry.
The digital revolution has further
enhanced the poetic powers of the editor.
George Lucas,
who began his career as an editor...
is one of the pioneers
of this new technology.
All art is technology.
That's the very nature of it.
The artist is always bumping
against that technology.
And the advent
of whether it's a new color of blue...
whether it's a proscenium arch,
whatever it is...
it changes the way we work
in that art form.
With computer technology, editors now
can make changes within the frame...
adding or removing elements
from the original image.
This increases the editor's control...
but also multiplies
the number of decisions to be made.
Now you can edit in what I call 3D.
Which is, you have a scene...
and you have people in the scene
and you can cut those people out...
you can move them around in the scene.
You can go in for a close-up, go out.
You can sort of direct the film
in the editing room...
which is, growing up as an editor,
what I've always wanted to do.
The new technology
also makes it possible...
to cut the movie before shooting begins.
Pre-visualization gives an editor
much more input in planning the movie.
I have a system now, because of
the digital world, I have a group of kids...
who do little videomatics of things.
We have a little blue screen.
We can send these editors in
and shoot scenes...
on just an amateur video camera.
So I can actually shoot the film
and make the film and write the film...
right there in the editing room.
Every main character in our movie
has a digital counterpart.
We have totally virtual actors now
and we use them quite a bit.
Mostly we use them for stunts and things.
We have a lot of situations
where it's better to use a digital actor...
than it is to use a real actor.
Christopher Lee is 80 years old.
He can't really fight the way he did
in Attack of the Clones.
You're not gonna get
an artificial-intelligence computer...
that's neurotic enough to be able...
to understand
how you create a performance.
Performance is an art.
At the end of the day,
all this stuff has to work...
to tell a story.
And if you're not telling a story...
it doesn't matter how much
razzle-dazzle there is.
It's not about the tools,
it's about the story.
In many ways, we're the last storyteller.
The movie's been written by the writer
and then it's directed...
and then it comes to the last storytelling
which is in the editing process.
The last draft of the screenplay
is the first cut of the movie.
And the final cut of the movie...
is the last draft of the script.
An editor can take a sequence
that a director has shot...
and reconfigure it so that it becomes
a whole different sequence...
which is much more beneficial
to the movie.
Bob Fosse referred to me
as a collaborator...
on his movies and I don't think there can
be a greater compliment for an editor...
to be called a collaborator, to really...
have that function.
And now a word about dykes. Pow.
I like dykes.
How could you say that?
Lenny was a biographical film
of the comedian Lenny Bruce...
who was often arrested
for taking language...
to the legal limits
of where it could go in the late '50s.
The most wonderful thing
that happened in it...
was near the end of the production.
We had to show the film to the producer.
And the script for the film
was the best script I ever read.
But we were having a problem.
We hated the ending.
You're trying to stop the information.
Bailiff, will you please remove
this man from the courtroom?
It was just not coming together.
When Lenny is dragged out
of the courtroom...
his life is effectively over.
Between that period
and the time of his death...
there were 20 minutes of material.
And I turned to Bob and I said:
"Why don't we just kill the son of a bitch?"
I took out two reels of film...
and I went straight from
"You can't stop the information"...
to Lenny's body on the floor.
And that was the most exciting thing
I've ever done in a cutting room.
I mean, we just loved that.
The opening scene of Apocalypse
is a good example...
of what you can achieve editorially...
that is not based on the original script.
There were some collisions
of images that occurred to Francis...
as he was shooting the film...
that were at variance with how he had
planned to begin the film originally.
The trees being napalmed was
originally shot for the surfing scene...
which comes much later in the film.
There was a shot of jungle...
bursting into slow-motion flames
with helicopters flying...
at odd angles in slow motion
through the frame.
And when Francis saw that shot in dailies,
which was, I think, simply done...
to record this explosion.
It wasn't intended to use it
in the finished film.
But he looked at it and said,
"That's the film right there.
"Jungle, flames, helicopters."
The Martin Sheen character
was one that was shaped...
very significantly in the editing room.
The film itself was shot...
with the idea that there would be
a narrative glue to hold the film together.
What exactly that glue was...
and who the character
of the narrator really was...
was really not shaped until well into
the post-production process.
Willard punches the mirror.
Blood comes out of his hand.
All of this is really happening.
That's real blood. That's Marty Sheen.
None of that was intended to happen.
That was just Francis saying. ;
"Marty, let's shoot an improvisation
with you trapped in your room...
"and what is gonna happen."
I think as we worked on the film,
we realized...
that the film itself was, in its own
strange way, a kind of modern opera.
And the reality of dealing...
just in the beginning,
with the Martin Sheen character...
was not sufficient to give the audience...
not only the emotional state
with which to enter the film...
but the visual iconography
of the film itself.
Going through the dailies of the film,
I collected a number of images...
of the Cambodian heads,
burning images from the end...
and worked them in
through a series of multilevel dissolves...
with the burning napalm
and the helicopters flying through...
and then images of Willard's room
and Willard asleep...
and he's trapped in this nightmare.
You have been hearing helicopter sounds...
and now you see this ceiling fan...
and what you're hearing
is the sound of a helicopter.
Is that coming from his dream?
Is it a reality?
Is somehow that sound
coming from the fan?
I remember when I was assembling
those images...
almost jumping away from the editing
machine when I put that sound...
with that image...
because it seemed to me that
that fan was making that sound...
even though I knew it was impossible
and if it convinced me, who was doing it...
it surely would convince others.
Now they begin to coalesce
and they turn into a real helicopter.
Coming from a fan?
And then you hear a real helicopter
fly over the room.
Willard gets up out of bed,
goes over to the window and says. ;
All of that, the narration,
and the helicopter flying over...
and the napalm jungle...
is concocted into something...
that is a powerful beginning to a film...
not only powerful in and of itself...
but powerful in the way
that it sets the stage...
for the journey
that this particular film is going to take.
Obviously, great directors give you
great material to work with.
But the ultimate film that you see
is the edited version...
and the editor
is greatly responsible for that.
I find my work absolutely
fascinating and absorbing.
I sat down to work and 30 years went by...
without my noticing it.
It's true. When I go into an editing room
in the morning...
I edit. My assistant has to remind me
it's lunchtime.
Or Steven has to come in and say, "Hey,
Mike, why don't you stop for a while?"
Because time goes by like that.
You're building a whole other world.
You're building a whole construct.
There's a joy on one level
in that it's like putting a puzzle together.
"I have thousands of pieces
and how do I tell the story?
"And this goes before that.
No, that doesn't.
"Actually, I only need half of that."
The job is not unlike
the Talmudic scholar...
who goes and sits and argues
about the book...
over and over again,
always coming up with new answers...
that are just more subtly refined
than the last answer.
To sit in a theater at a preview
and to hear an audience laugh...
at that moment when you expect
the laugh and it comes back at you...
or to hear an audience shuffling
and crying because...
it's so sad and you expect
that moment to really happen that way...
that's so marvelous.
It tells you what power we have.
I believe in people being able to learn
because otherwise, what's the point?
We're all gonna, you know,
be passed one of these days...
and how are we gonna take
this fantastic thing called film...
and motion pictures and storytelling...
unless we pass it on
and teach people how to do it?
In the century since Edwin Porter
introduced editing...
editors have emerged
from their dimly lit back rooms.
Once anonymous men and women...
they have gradually become principal
collaborators in the filmmaking process.
The best-kept secret in the movies,
the editor, is finally out.
The Oscar goes to...
Thank you. Thank you so much.
You know, Steven gave me...
my first editorial advice. I don't know
if you remember this or not, Steven...
but Steven produced
I Wanna Hold Your Hand, my first movie.
I talked to him about a lot of things
but when it came to editing he said:
"Hey, Bob, real easy.
When in doubt, cut it out."
I've been saying that in the editing room,
as you guys know...
for all these years.
Steven also was able to...
When I was making that movie...
Steven had just bought
his first mansion in Beverly Hills.
he said, "Hey, I've got
this great pool house.
"You guys don't have to edit on the lot
where there's no windows...
"in the editing rooms.
You guys can edit in this pool house."
And we said, "Hey, that's great."
We went in the back of Steven's house
and edited I Wanna Hold Your Hand...
in the pool house.
But this strange thing kept happening.
We'd get there in the morning
and the editors would pull the reels...
off the racks and all the sprockets
would be torn up...
and there'd be, like, ripped film.
And of course you don't have to,
you know...
think very far to figure out
what was really happening. So I asked...
Steven about it one day and he said,
"Sometimes I can't sleep...
"and so I thought I'd go up
to the pool house and run a few reels."
But what happens in that editing room?
You sit around, you talk about girls.
And you talk dirty.
And you lie on the couch.
And you enjoy yourself.
And you eat chocolate bars.
And like I said before,
when somebody hears a director coming...
you throw everything away and
you stand up straight like you're working...
that's what editors do.