I received an email from Linton Davies and an invitation to download his book for free for review purposes. Glad I took this UK editor up on his offer. The Editing of Star Wars: How Cutting Created a Classic offers insights to Star Wars fan boys and girls as well as professional editors. I learned a few things myself and was impressed by Davies’ astute diagnosis of the editing in this classic, game-changing film as well as editing in general. Before I talk about what I learned, to make a short story short – the book is a pithy 86 pages here’s a bit from the author himself.
Davies reasons to write the book
Davies emailed me:
“As a long suffering editor in the trenches I became frustrated about how little this side of filmmaking is discussed in relation to actual ‘cuts’, not just in purely technical (‘my RAM’s bigger than yours’) or philosophical (‘you just have to feel it!’) terms. The book seeks to address that, using one of the most popular films of all time as a peg to go into the practical cause and effects of the choices editors make.”
In the book’s preface Davies writes, “My goal is to demonstrate how ‘cutting’ is at the very heart of everything we love and remember about Star Wars, hiding in plain sight since its initial release. I believe there to be tremendous value in spending time thinking about editing in this way, not just from a purely theoretical perspective, but through the lens of a real world example, where cuts take on a life of their own. Editing is ultimately and essentially the art of storytelling, so how can it be rationally discussed if separated from the story itself?
Davies succeeds at his task and more.
A few of the interesting things I liked and/or learned
1. Rhythm section
Davies devotes the second most space (19 pages) to discussing the pace and duration of cuts and relating to the overall rhythm of scenes, evoking Eisenstein, Hirsch, and other illustrious editors. He includes a graph of ASLs (Average Shot Lengths) that covers all the scenes of Star Wars and another of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace to compare the first and last movies in the series.
2. Editing Section (22 pages) and the meatiest section
a. Droids and the Cold War
Davies relates, “Lucas viewed the droids as key to his Cold War message, cultivating the idea that seemingly ‘disposable’ civilians can have a huge impact if they have the right spirit, that they can take down the seemingly all powerful evil Empire.”
b. Cheating Dialog
Obi Wan Kenobi’s famous line “May the force be with you” was neither scripted by George Lucas nor uttered by actor Alec Guinness who made himself unavailable after production. Editor Paul Hirsch wrestled the sentence, sans light saber from several sentences Guinness voice during production.
c. Movie Roots
Davies digs at the roots of the Star Wars saga and uncovers just how derivative the time honored movie is. For instance, the opening credits are taken in 1940 from Flash Gordon, an early space series.
Davies has put his love of a film as a kid together with his time in the cutting room as an adult to put forth a book well worth reading. The force of editing – and love – is with him in The Editing of Star Wars: How Cutting Created a Classic.
I’ve been authoring books, blogging on this site, and writing articles for MovieMaker and other magazines: Now it’s time to take my show on the road and actually interact with some people. So I’ve created a four-session evening course that the Community Ed wing of Santa Rosa Jr. College (in Santa Rosa, CA) has been kind enough to host this October.
The course is for filmmakers – student, independent, and professional – as well as moviegoers who want to know more about editors and editing. I would love to see you there and for you to pass the word on.
You can sign up for the course and read more details here. Here’s the full blown description:
Purpose of course
To familiarizes students with the current editing scene and its roots, the types of cuts that editors make, and why editors make these cuts.
Who’s the course for?
I’ve designed the course to help:
- Enhance the film going experience for moviegoers, cinephiles, film clubs, and film critics.
- Film students shoot, direct, produce, and edit their projects more effectively.
- Home moviemakers, YouTube filmmakers, iMovie users, and other prosumer software editors deepen their knowledge of editing and be inspired anew when creating their videos.
- Editors, aspiring editors, assistant editors, apprentice editors, and independent filmmakers learn more about the current state of editing and be re-energized in their profession.
What’s the course about?
What does an editor do besides cut out the ‘bad shots?’ This course demystifies editing by explaining the editor’s role – both magical and mundane – and demonstrating the different types of cuts that editors make, why they make them and how they affect viewers. Using scenes from TV shows and movies, the class explores how editing shapes a film’s plot, pace, character, structure, and timing; class exercises and optional homework expand the experience.
The course covers the three phases of the editing process and delves into the impact visual effects, sound, and music editing make on films and videos. It looks at the editor’s role in movies, reality shows, docs, comedies, etc. today. Finally, it compares the traditional, Hollywood style of linear, ‘invisible’ editing, citing current research and contrasting it with the modern, non-linear, often unabashedly visible MTV style of editing.
By the end of the course students will be able to:
- List the six phases of a film project.
- Define a cut and its function in action, dialogue, and other types of scenes.
- Identify different types of cuts, why and editor would make them, and how they affect the audience.
- State the three phases of editing process.
- Describe the editor’s role and contribution to a film or video project.
- Relate the history of editing and how the language of editing has evolved.
- Compare the traditional Hollywood style and the modern “MTV” editing style.
- Explain the current state of editing and research about editing in the U.S. today.
- State the power of sound and music in editing.
- Identify different types of VFX (visual effects) and how they affect a film’s story.
A Veteran Sound Editor Sounds Off and
Imparts a Terabyte of Filmmaking Knowledge from Development to the Mix
Sound editor Vickie Sampson was the featured speaker at LAFPUG* recently which has posted her edited talk. This 34-minute video is a must see for anyone entering the biz, wishing to make their own film, or wanting to learn more about planning for sound and editing it. Vickie is a long time sound editor on many illustrious films, starting with New York, New York and continuing through both Sex in the City movies. (How’s that for getting caught between the moon and NYC!)
What Vickie knows about sound and filmmaking is worth listening to.
She’s human, entertaining, and instructional as she’s done it all: Directed and written her own films, commercials, and shorts in addition to her sound work. She also is a consummate teacher, giving regular sources at Video Symphony in Burbank. But this lecture is free. And worth your time.
The last thing I want to say before turning you over to the video: Vickie has been a long time friend and resource for both editions of Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video books. She kindly wrote the Foreword to the current (second) edition.
So I am very happy to introduce you the intrepid, inimitable Vickie!
*Los Angeles Final Cut Pro Users Group
As a regular blogger on my own website, I regularly receive offers from companies to write guest blogs. Most I reject as too “market” in tone or not “on subject” to you – my readers – or me. This post via Josh Bristol, PR Coordinator for SocialMonsters, was one of the exceptions. It details the “hows” and “whys” of backing up, storing, collaborating with other filmmakers, and sharing your files and videos during editing. I receive no money or compensation of any kind for this guest blog so let me know what you think as Josh has offered future blogs.
Guest Post from SocialMonsters
Almost everyone has experienced the sinking feeling that comes when you realize you just lost a decade’s worth of family photos when your computer crashed—even worse is knowing that you never made a video backup of your wedding day. Losing just a few precious snapshots can be disappointing and losing an entire video, for some, can seem tragic. With so many options available making back ups of your video can be easy.
With so many options available for businesses to store data, you would think that business owners would be diligent about document and video backup. External hard drives, flash drives and burning individual disc records are just three storage options. There are also off-site options for personal and business use. According to Ramon Ray, a contributor for Small Biz Technology, two thirds of business owners do not even have an emergency preparedness plan. Using an online data protection company for storing your video footage can be a good option as well.
With all of the technology available it just makes sense to back up video files immediately. Video files can become corrupted or lost in your filming device, during transfer, and on your computer. Using cloud backup services makes it possible to initiate the three P’s almost effortlessly: prepare for emergency events, protect your data from damage, and provide an avenue for sharing digital information.
There is a host of reasons to backup video files immediately. Beyond accidental corruption and damage, video files take up large segments of space on your laptop or desktop computers. The advantages of off-site storage do not stop there.
1. Avoid damage Access and Mobility
Off-site storage allows users to retrieve and download their videos from anywhere in the world with internet connectivity. At home, at the office, or on vacation, all of your videos are within reach 24 hours a day/7 days a week.
2. Sharing and Collaborating
Whether you want to share your videos with family and friends, or you use the cloud backup service for business, using the cloud allows for more flexibility and control. For business owners, uploading videos instantly means your editing team can start work right away and from multiple locations. For individuals, it means Grandma in Texas and Aunt Sue in Boca Raton can see the newest family member at the same time.
3. Automatic Protection
Some backup devices use software to coordinate, synchronize and schedule backup. It is possible to maintain continuous backup cycles that virtually ensure you never lose another video or document to power failure or unexpected disaster.
You can use temporary storage options or disc backup. You might choose off-site storage for physical backup records. There are pros and cons to every backup system; however, cloud backup services seem to have fewer drawbacks than traditional storage devices. Some services are free, others have subscriptions or variable fee schedules.
Having the peace of mind that comes from knowing your information is protected from corruption, hurricanes and intruders is easily accessible. Don’t wait until you lose your next priceless video, start making a video backup instantly after filming. Preparedness is always the best approach to protecting your video assets. Get your video in a cloud backup service today and rest assured that your most memorable moments are safe and sound.
Here are some additional resources: