Why You Need An Editor
The rapid Digital Revolution in film has brought with it many terrific things, but it has also created a few nasty trends as well (one of which is that short films are becoming far too long, but I will address that in another post). Today’s post is regarding one trend that has been driving me absolutely nuts. Lately, I have noticed a pattern of more and more young directors editing their own films.
With things becoming cheaper and more available and viable at home, youngsters are starting to view themselves as a proverbial one-stop-shop. “Look at me, I can direct, DP, and edit this whole thing by myself.”
I could spend hours upon hours explaining my detest for this approach, but I will try and hone my focus deliberately on editing. As the Systems Admin of an editing lab, nothing troubles me more then seeing these young student filmmakers sitting at a station, slaving away, editing a film they, themselves directed. Filmmaking is a collaborative art form. Yet more and more people are losing sight of that these days. Why that is, I am unsure, but I know it is happening.
When directing a film, you live and breathe the material from the ground up. You breakdown every scene, every word, every moment. But as they say, filming is the battle, but the editing room is the war. And like a good General, why attack without an army? Taking a step back from the material and handing it off to an editor is vital to the success of a film. It does not matter if the film is five minutes or three hours.
In spite of your wide and generous disregard of my communications on the subject of the script of Strangers on a Train and your failure to make any comment on it, and in spite of not having heard a word from you since I began the writing of the actual screenplay — for all of which I might say I bear no malice, since this sort of procedure seems to be part of the standard Hollywood depravity — in spite of this and in spite of this extremely cumbersome sentence, I feel that I should, just for the record, pass you a few comments on what is termed the final script. I could understand your finding fault with my script in this or that way, thinking that such and such a scene was too long or such and such a mechanism was too awkward. I could understand you changing you mind about the things you specifically wanted, because some of such changes might have been imposed on you from without. What I cannot understand is your permitting a script which after all had some life and vitality to be reduced to such a flabby mass of clichés, a group of faceless characters, and the kind of dialogue every screen writer is taught not to write — the kind that says everything twice and leaves nothing to be implied by the actor or the camera. Of course you must have had your reasons but, to use a phrase once coined by Max Beerbohm, it would take a ‘far less brilliant mind than mine’ to guess what they were.
Regardless of whether or not my name appears on the screen among the credits, I’m not afraid that anybody will think I wrote this stuff. They’ll know damn well I didn’t. I shouldn’t have minded in the least if you had produced a better script — believe me, I shouldn’t. But if you wanted something written in skim milk, why on earth did you bother to come to me in the first place? What a waste of money! What a waste of time! It’s no answer to say that I was well paid. Nobody can be adequately paid for wasting his time.
Raymond Chandler— ~ Raymond Chandler to Alfred Hitchcock, Dec. 6, 1950. Published on Letters of Note, brought to my attention by caioamnesiac. (via directingfilm)