Archive for November, 2011

Do go see Hugo

November 29th, 2011

Hugo poster Director Martin Scorsese scores with Hugo, an engaging story and an homage to early French filmmakers George Melies (played by Sir Ben Kingsley) and the Lumiere brothers as well as Gare Montparnesse, a French railway station. Edited by the queen of editors, Thelma Schoomaker, the movie has special appeal to filmmakers, film students, and editors – its 127 minutes flew by for me as I was thoroughly, enchantingly engaged in the story and the muted brown-gray train station world of devices and ordinary people that Scorsese created.

The main drama centers on  Melies and Hugo Cabret, a boy with huge watery blue eyes (perfectly acted by Asa Butterfield). Melies, represents the exuberant, free-for-all inventiveness of the birth of filmmaking. He despairs of his achievements, living in obscurity and believing that all of his films have been melted down to make heels for shoes. Hugo – as youth in film often does – brings Melies out of his self-imposed exile and gives us hope for the future of film and humanity: We know that this quiet, mechancially talented boy will achieve breatkthroughs of his own.

Hugo, Editing, and Film Literacy

Hugo gets off to a marvelous start with a shape match cut from the gears of a clock to the hubTrip to the Moon poster of Paris centered around the Arc de Triomphe (which it does in reverse order later in the film). In another poem to editing, the movie employs an automaton as a subtle Kuleshov device. (See August 16, 2011 post for defintion and background of Kuleshov.) The automaton seems asleep, sad, and determined, depending on the shots Schoomaker surrounds it with.

The movies recounts how early moviegoers reacted to movies, such as the famous incident where Parisians thought a train was really coming into the station in on of the early Lumiere brothers’ shorts and reacted by trying to leave the theatre. Hugo also shows many scenes from Melies most famous film A Trip to the Moon, a pioneer fantasy film of special effects.

There are other odes to film secreted within this film that I probably missed. Go and see them and report back to Joy. One word of advice: Don’t see the 3D version. Ordinarily I make sure to see the 3D version of a film if there is one, but for the first time, I regretted this choice. Though I laud Scorsese for employing it, from the first frame on, the 3D made me feel distanced from the story and its characters; they loomed out of the screen bringing farther from its heart and message.

Joy goes to the movies

Part 2: Top Ten Reasons Why it’s a Great Time to Be a Filmmaker

November 25th, 2011

Here’s my list of ten reasons. Take what it with your own shaker of salt and develop your own flight plan. (See Part 1 for Intro and reason I came up with this list). Feel free to send Joy your reasons.

  1. Band of brothers and sisters.
  2. When you pursue a career in film, especially Hollywood, you’re joining a special group of non-conformists. This group scoffs at the question, “What’s the use of a liberal arts education?” You may have majored in art, philosophy, physics, film, or digital communications but you have a passion to work with filmed words and images that communicate with an audience. Respect yourself and pursue your choice with everything you’ve got.

  3. Chance to make a difference – leave an imprint
  4. This reason is not a flight of fancy. Your work influences viewers, be they students watching a training film, an art audience changed by your documentary, a family kicking back to your comedy, or a dorm full of students hooked on your web series. Not every project will be something you want to show Mom or keep on your resume, but it will influence others and increase your skills and contacts.

  5. Meet a variety of people
  6. You will interact with all sorts of sane and crazy people in the film biz. They will drive you nuts, enrage you, enrich your life, help you, and allow you to help others. Value them and know when to say, “Thanks” and “Farewell.”

  7. Encounter a variety of subjects
  8. Whether you work on scripted shows (e.g. dramas and comedies) or non-scripted shows (e.g. documentaries, reality shows, or instructional videos) you’ll learn a range of subjects you’ve never imagined. You may drop these topics or follow them once the show wraps, but they will widen your horizon either way.

  9. Travel
  10. Being a filmmaker will land in places you’ve haven’t dreamed – that you could have possibly put on your flight plan. One day you’ll be in the doldrums, contemplating a career change, the next you’ll be flying across the country on that series you just landed: Turbulence and unexpected ports are part of the profession.

  11. Hold the heart of the film in your hands
  12. If you become an editor, as you view shots and decide which frames go in out and out, you will hold the film’s heart (characters and) and heartbeat (rhythm and pace) in your hands. You will play a vital role in shaping the show’s story and message and the director or client’s vision. It will be your joy, honor, and responsibility to sculpt the best show possible from the footage, no matter how big or small the project is.

  13. Work with cutting edge tools
  14. We’re in the midst of a digital revolution in which the technological territory morphs annually. This is converging work and changing relationships between preproduction, production, and postproduction. As a filmmaker, you will be a part of this change and get to use these incredible tools – editing systems, state-of-the-art plug-ins, third party software, etc. While they’re a lot to keep up with, the gratification from creating on them – and keeping employed – are worth it.

  15. Work a little, work a lot
  16. You career will not always be in your control – you may work mondo hours and be desperate for time off, then find yourself with too much time off and be desperate for work. During your downtimes, lunch with colleagues and new folks, go to industry events, and polish your skills along with your resume. Time off is part of film life and brings its own set of challenges and rewards, just like the work itself. During the 90-hour weeks with no days off, remember to breathe, sleep, de-stress, kiss your beloved, and that you’re on a (hopefully) worthwhile project.

  17. Special moments that no other industry brings
  18. Filmmaking is both magical and mundane: One moment you’re picking up the producer’s tuxedo, the next you’re at the Academy Awards. You’ll experience times of predictable boredom and the opposite on the job. True story: One day a producer lucky at the horse races handed $100 bills to everyone in the cutting room. The week before, on the same show, director and producers alike worked an unexpected all-nighter to re-cut the show from frame 1 because the editor – not me – turned in a subpar cut.

  19. You’re your own agent – even if you have an agent
  20. You will always be your own pilot: forever networking, re-inventing, honing your skills, self promoting, and sussing out the next job. There is no one path to success in the film industry. That wedding video you edited may lead to your first feature, that feature may go nowhere and send you on unemployment, but you have to pursue every lead, follow every highway and byway, and make your own way.

Announcements, Editing & life, Editing practices, Editor’s role, Jobs

Part 1: Top Ten Reasons Why it’s a Great Time to Be a Filmmaker

November 21st, 2011

Michael Wiese Productions, my publisher, has asked all its authors to address the above in an essay, comic piece, or list. MWP plans to assemble, these articles into a 75-100 page pdf file and distribute it via MWP’s website, Amazon Kindle, Scribd, and as many venues as possible. It will be free or cheap – $1.99 – and available starting in December at the latest.

Yeah, the lists are being written to help promote our books but I for one, am not writing a marketing piece. And I suspect none of the other Wiese (pronounced “weezy”) writers will either – we’re a pretty caring and “tell it like it is” bunch. I will be interested to read what the other authors write.

The subject made me think: Why would I encourage people to enter the film industry. While it was a major part of my life’s journey and I don’t regret going to Hollywood, it wasn’t an easy path; there were close encounters of a good, bad, and ugly nature along the way – not unlike other professions but with a unique, film industry twist.

What would you tell people? Let Joy know. Here’s the intro to my list: Full list in my next blog post.

Top Ten Reasons Why it’s a Great Time to Be a Filmmaker

With four decades in and around the industry – working from projectionist to grip, electrician, and craft service to editor to digital systems trainer and college editing instructor to author of three books on editing – I guess I can be lumped into the category “Old Salt.” So when sharing my hard earned grains of wisdom with those desiring – daring – to enter the profession, I want to be enthusiastic and supportive yet realistic. A scene from The Wizard of Oz jumps into my head – the one where the wicked witch urges the monkeys to “Fly, fly, fly!” It makes me want to be responsible for where I’m sending fledglings off to. How many will make it intact and be glad for the journey?

Announcements, Editing & life, Jobs

Part 2: Editing Jobs by the Numbers: Current Government Statistics

November 15th, 2011

Is editing a growing profession? How does its economic outlook stack up against other professions? Here’s what the U.S. BLS says.

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Outlook

The BLS expects that the number of film editing jobs to increase by 12% from 2008-2018. This projected rate is slightly greater than average for all careers during this period. However, BLS finds that “competition is keen” as so many people want to enter the profession. Tell us something we didn’t know! Here’s the official table:

Projections data from the National Employment Matrix
Occupational Title Employment




# %
Film and video editors
(SOC code 27-4032)
25,500 28,600 3,000 12
Note: Data in this table are rounded.

Where are the jobs?

Current answer: 75% of us work in television (on nontheatrical projects).

Future answer: In 2010 a Forrester study found that for the first time, people in U.S. divided their screen equally between TV and the computer.  So the ‘Net should bring in more work – webisodes here we (continue to) come!

Let the predictions flow! Let Joy know what you’re seeing and what you think will happen. And good luck to us all!

History/research, Jobs, Television

Part 1: Editing Jobs by the Numbers: Current Government Statistics

November 7th, 2011

Where are the jobs for film and video editors in located in the U.S.? What is the median salary? Do some areas pay higher? Curious, I looked up the latest BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) findings online. Here are the results.

Editor salaries as of May 2010


  • Mean wage: $68,680 annually
  • Lowest 10% mean wage: $25,960 annually
  • Highest 10% mean wage: $$111,000+ annually

Here’s the BLS’s wage break down from lowest to highest percentile:

Percentile 10% 25% 50%
75% 90%
Hourly wage $12.48 $16.88 $24.49 $35.80 $53.78
Annual wage $25,960 $35,120 $50,930 $74,470 $111,860

Here’s a map of the top paying areas by state:

Wage Map

In case you had a hard time reading the key, here’s a summary box of the five top paying states:

STATE Employment Employment per 1000 jobs Location quotient Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage
California 6,030 0.43 2.75 $40.76 $84,790
District of Columbia 80 0.12 0.76 $34.53 $71,820
New York not available not available not available $32.37 $67,330
Illinois 550 0.10 0.64 $28.94 $60,200
Massachusetts 460 0.15 0.93 $28.61 $59,510

Here are the top paying areas by metropolitan area:

METROPOLITAN AREA Employment Employment per 1000 jobs Location quotient Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan Division 4,700 1.23 7.85 $44.74 $93,060
New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division 3,530 0.71 4.52 $32.89 $68,420
San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA Metropolitan Division 510 0.54 3.46 $30.89 $64,250
Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL Metropolitan Division 470 0.13 0.86 $30.06 $62,530
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA 320 0.15 0.94 $24.76 $51,500
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA Metropolitan Division 260 0.19 1.22 $29.15 $60,630
Orlando-Kissimmee, FL 250 0.26 1.68 $14.71 $30,610
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division 250 0.11 0.68 $30.72 $63,890
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA NECTA Division 240 0.15 0.94 $30.59 $63,620
St. Louis, MO-IL 240 0.19 1.19 $22.62 $47,060

History/research, Jobs

David Lean Revisited: Spotlight on an Editor/Director/Writer Extraordinaire

November 1st, 2011

On October 27 I leave (with my trusty companion and webmeister who made almost all the arrangements), on our first trip to India. But have no worries! I’ve blogged ahead on some interesting subjects and have scheduled them to be posted while I’m away.

As part of preparing for this three week adventure, I’ve been reading everything I can, talking to everyone I know who’s been, setting up (via my publisher) to meet a couple of filmmakers, and viewing movies. The other night I watched A Passage to India which was written, directed, and edited by David Lean and his final movie.

Another Lean-directed movie

Film is a dramatized reality and it is the director’s job to make it appear real… an audience should not be conscious of technique.

David Lean

On Friday, November 22, 1963, a friend invited her three closest friends – including me – out for dinner and Lawrence of Arabia poster to see a movie to celebrate her birthday. Lawrence of Arabia was an endless array of bloody, desert battles to my twelve year old mind, further savaged by the periodic intrusion of the day’s assassination of a president I revered. I have not seen the movie since.

I have, however, read about it, learned that Anne V. Coates won the Oscar for editing it in 1963, and watched a clip of the famous “match edit.” It’s composed of a day interior, side angle shot of Lawrence/TE Eliot (actor Peter O’Toole) blowing out a match which cuts to a sunset shot of a huge desert vista. This apparently, is one of Lean’s trademarks. He has Adela Quested (actress Judy Davis) hold a match to her face to illuminate the darkness of the Malabar Caves in A Passage to India.

Passage to India poster Both movies are journeys that strive to illuminate countries, cultures, time periods, and characters. Lean acknowledged that he filmed the action left to right in Lawrence to emphasize that the film’s a journey.

A Passage to India shows a number of gorgeous vistas of the Indian countryside that knocked my socks off along. But these scintillating wide shots weren’t there to wow me but to move the story forward. They were interspersed with the personal story – close-ups of characters, of a British flag on an elegant car, and of other significant details. Hand in hand, the wide and close shots give the audience time to draw back from the drama while deepening its awareness of the land of India.

Lean’s movies reflect their character’s society and culture, the land they find themselves in, and aim to enlighten us about their inner and outer worlds. Yet both keep you at arm’s length like you’re a tourist. Lean underscores this with his remark, “I think people remember pictures not dialogue. That’s why I like pictures.”

English movies on India
A Jewel in the Crown poster
Like A Jewel in the Crown, the BBC series which also debuted in 1984, A Passage to India is a very British movie with an educated English eye to life in India for both Indians and English during colonial rule. We see the racist myth of Scarlett O’Hara played out in indophobic manner as Indian men are distrusted around English women and falsely accused of rape in both shows. Both shows works against this stereotyping and try to portray English and Indians of all stripes but remain firmly rooted in the upper class British world. Lean clearly liked living and breathing with his characters, remarking, “I like making films about characters I’d like to have dinner with.”

David Lean on Editing

When the great actor says the line, you can put scissors precisely at the point A and it’s wonderful. When the star says the line, you can hold for four frames longer because something else happens.

David Lean

The video below – at 2:18 minutes in – captures Lean talking about A Passage to India and his approach to editing. But first, a few last thoughts. Lean kept the horizon in view in the majority of his exterior shots. How’s that for a spiritual concept? Both A Passage to India and A Jewel in the Crown as well as a host of other movies (The World of Apu and Slumdog Millionaire to name a couple) have taught me more about filmmaking and prepared me for India: I look forward to making my own journey. And I do plan to see the updated version of Lawrence of Arabia one of these days!

David Lean’s Career Highlights – A Partial Filmography

1984 A Passage to India

1979 Ryan’s Daughter

1965 Doctor Zhivago

1962 Lawrence of Arabia

1957 The Bridge on the River Kwai

1955 Summertime

1954 Hobson’s Choice

1952 Breaking the Sound Barrier

1950 Madeleine

1949 One Woman’s Story

1948 Oliver Twist

1946 Great Expectations

1945 Brief Encounter

1945 Blithe Spirit

Editing practices, Joy goes to the movies