Archive for December, 2009

Writing your Script with Editing in Mind

December 27th, 2009

The Story Department, a Sydney, Australia based website founded by OZZYWOOD Films producer and Story Analyst Karel Segers, requested my article on screenwriting for editing. They improved my article with a few astute edits and illustrations. Here’s the lead paragraph:

film clip The humbling truth is that the film is made in the editing room.

David Mamet introducing the nominations for editing during the 2002 Academy Awards ceremony.

The screenwriter is the first step in the film making process and the editor, the last. How do you write a script that’ll produce an edit-ready film?

Editors are often called the last re-writers of the show. Another way to put this is that the editor is the architect of the show. Our blueprint is the script (or outline on a nonfiction show). Our building materials are the footage: long shots, wide shots, medium shots, close ups, over-the shoulders, inserts, raking shots, reverses, master shots, and two-shots. From these we design the show with sound, dialogue, music, and the placement and duration of the shots. Just as a bridge transports travelers from bank to bank with good design and construction, so good editing conveys viewers from the beginning of the show to the end by giving them what they need to see, hear, and experience along the way to get there.

To read the complete article, go to:

Editing & screenwriting, Editor’s role

Creators and Commentators on the Language of Film Editing

December 22nd, 2009

In Creationists, his 2006 essay collection, novelist Doctorow distinguishes between “… writers who make their language visible, who draw attention to it in the act of writing and don’t let us forget it… from those magicians of the real who write to make their language invisible, like lit stage scrims that pass us through to the scene behind, so that we see the life they are rendering as if no language is producing it.”

He could be writing about filmmaking.

Some filmmakers simply tell a tale and use editing, camera and sound to portray it as artfully as possible. The editing remains mostly invisible in their hands as we become absorbed in story, place and characters. Directors Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee, and James Cameron fit this description.  Other directors – Quentin Tarantino, Jean Luc Godard (and others in the 1950s French New Wave) Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Mel Brooks, and Brian De Palma jump to mind – make us aware that they’re filming and comment on the conventions of editing and filmmaking.


Sergei Eisenstein, the revered founding father of editing and filmmaking, shot and edited the famous Odessa steps scene in The Battleship Potemkin, 1925.

In The Untouchables, 1987, De Palma pays homage to the famous scene.

With the help of OJ Simpson and George Kennedy, Leslie Nielson spoofs it the opening grab ’em scene of Naked Gun 33 1/3 (starts at 24″).

As you go about your holiday viewing, check out which movies comment on the art of filmmaking and notice how editing figures in this.

Editing practices, Fun & games, History/research

Nativity Scene 2009: Avatar and the first Speaker of the Na’vi Language

December 17th, 2009

AvatarDecember 18 will see the official U.S. debut of director James Cameron’s sci-fi drama Avatar. I have been hearing about this movie for over four years now from a long time friend. Paul (Dr. Paul Frommer) is a linguist who has co-written a textbook on linguistics and teaches in the Marshall School of Business at USC. When Cameron’s production company approached Dr. Ed Finnegan, head of USC’s Linguistics Department and co-author of the textbook, he pointed them to Paul.

At first Paul could only talk about the movie in vague terms as his script was numbered and messengered to his home and he signed confidentiality agreements about plot, director, etc. But I knew he was creating a language from scratch and was excited for him and thrilled for the movie world as Paul is brilliant and painstakingly dedicated and highly successful at whatever he tackles.

I was also curious. Would the language of the Na’vi – the indigo inhabitants of the planet Pandora’s moon as the world now knows – have gender (like French, Spanish, etc.)? Would it sound like Klingon? How would the actors learn the language? How did the editor deal with the language? And what are the songs like that the Na’vi speakers sing?

You may have questions of your own so bring ’em on!

Paul has graciously offered to answer all Joyoffilmediting’s questions after he’s done being interviewed by BBC, NPR, Variety, the New York Times, etc.) So please send your questions in before January 5.

And go see Avatar and see what you think of Na’vi!

Joy goes to the movies

Deck the halls with Sounds of Foley

December 15th, 2009

I’ve blogged about sound effects a few times but haven’t written about Foley. Created by a Foley artist (a.k.a. Foley walker or Foley dancer) on a Foley stage during post production, Foley is sound effects recorded in sync with specific actions on the screen the picture runs on the screen.

For an extensive article on the history of Foley and the state-of-the-art today, read this piece from the Editors Guild Magazine.

Do you have any Foley fables? Feel free to send your experiences and tips to Joy.

Hollywood of Yore, Foley men of Lore

Foley was invented by Jack Foley, a Universal Studios employee, in the 1930s. It was an exclusively male profession for years; Hollywood lore has that men in heels foleyed Marilyn Monroe and other femme fatales.

Foley effects are edited into the picture by the Foley editor, a member of the sound effects team. Here’s a funny bit about Foley from A Modern Romance, (1981), where Albert Brooks play an editor caught between his dim-witted director and the old salts on the sound mixing team.

Fun & games, History/research, Sound & music editing

Speaking of job seeking…

December 10th, 2009

BookcoverThere’s No Business Like Soul Business by Derek Rydall is the best book I’ve seen on how not just to keep yourself together, but to grow and get your creations realized in Hollywood or anywhere. While I wish I’d had this book when I started out, one of its strongest attributes is that it works for those who just got off the bus at Hollywood and Vine and those who’ve ridden the line for a long time.

Although this 235 page book is aimed at those seeking artistic success in Hollywood, it applies to creators of any kind – editors, videographers, writers, artists, inventors, woodworkers, etc. – who desire to break through personal and corporate barriers and get their work noticed and sold.

Rydall advises that you “gotta know the territory” as Professor Hill from The Music Man would have said. He lays out Tinsel town’s mindset in a down-to-earth way, puncturing the myths about how to secure success in Hollywood with solid advice and a series of practical, soul-probing, self-reinforcing exercises.

Editing & life, Jobs

Holiday Job Shopping – Posting for Post Positions

December 8th, 2009

There’s a new place for post production people to connect on Facebook. Post Production Networking Group, conceived and managed assistant sound editor and set photographer, just started last week and has already generated over 2100 members! The group is going where the spirit takes it and this means networking!

Looking for a job? Post your talents and needs here. The spirit has moved folks and it’s exciting to see. Maybe this will be the Craig’s list of post production. Jobs are being posted are being posted too. So join in!


New Editing Course Syllabus…Info on Visual Effects Editors wanted

December 4th, 2009

I recently finished my syllabus for a course on editing theory, practice, and history based in part on my new book, Film Editing: Great Cuts Every Filmmaker and Movie Lover Must Know. It’s posted on my website under “Free.

The syllabus is designed for anyone giving lectures on editing or teaching a course at a college, high school or middle school or the general public.

The course is aimed at anyone who wants to learn about the different types cuts (smash cuts, flash cuts, match cuts, jump cuts, etc.) and why editors make them as well as the history of editing and how it’s practiced today. It can accompany or be prerequisite for a hands-on editing course.

What I’m finding…

There is no book on what visual effects editors do. There are lots on how to create visual effects and learn visual effects programs. But nothing on the role of the visual effects editor. So give a shout if you know of books or other sites or caches of info on this topic and I’ll add them to the syllabus.

Editing practices, Editor’s role, Visual FX editing