When we analyze production values in class, we talk about the obvious ones: music, lighting, use of color, etc. But the most effective production value – the ONE tool that can manipulate a message like no other – is editing. And when it’s done well, it’s pracitcally invisible. We don’t even notice.
SO – #1: Excellent editing in a film propels the story and can provide even deeper meaning. Check out this clip of the “Ten Most Effective Editing Moments in Film”
The Godfather clip, for example, shows us several different scenes happening at once – but they all gel together to tell the story. Editing, in this case, helps tell the story.
#2. Editing can add dramatic effect. Take “The Bachelor” (I know, I know….total trash TV. But bear with me.) In this rose ceremoy scene, we’ve got several different things going on. We have the outside shot of the house. We have the group shot with all the women looking nervous. We have voiceovers TALKING about how nervous they are. We have closeups of the women being nervous. We have Ben arriving, also looking nervous. (Sense a theme yet?) The point is, we have NO IDEA how long this rose ceremony actually took. Were there pregnant pauses in between each rose? Were the closeups of the nervous women actually filmed during the rose ceremony, or before? And who can forget the classic “Final rose tonight” quip from host Chris Harrison, which only adds to the drama as Ben appears to wait even longer to give out that rose. The whole scene – in reality – could have taken 90 seconds. But ABC’s editors use every trick in the book to lengthen the scene and add dramatic impact.
#3. Editing can be a fantastic comedic tool. Check out these movie trailers: all that was changed was the music and the editing. No scenes were added. They were simply shown in a different order with different music. Notice the effect?? Check out “Mrs Doubtfire” as a horror movie (this actually works….creepy as hell!)
You can search “Genre bending movie trailers” on YouTube if you are interested in falling down a black hole. Be sure to check out “Brokeback to the Future” or the trailer that turns “The Shining” into a romantic comedy. In each case, no scenes were added to change the genre. They were merely EDITED to a different effect.
#4. This last use of editing actually makes me a bit unhinged. Here’s why: when I watch a movie or a TV program, I expect to be manipulated. I expect that the storytellers will use tools to get me to feel and think a certain way. When I watch the news or a documentary, however, I am naive enough to expect truth. And some stuff hit the fan yesterday when it was discovered that Katie Couric had narrated a documentary that was edited to a particular point of view. Here’s the story from the Washington Post. In an interview with supporters of the 2nd Amendment, Couric asked a question that was answered clearly (according to the audio version). But in the documentary, she asks the question and then the image shows the supporters staring blankly, as if they cannot answer the question. And they stare blankly for nine seconds. The audio presents the 2nd Amendment supporters in a completely different way than the edited video.
Regardless of what one think about the 2nd Amendment, one would like to expect truth in reporting. I don’t expect objectivity (after all, news is a business and they cater to their audiences) but I also don’t expect producers of documentaries to be so obvious in their disdain for those they are interviewing.
The point of this post is to demonstrate the power of editing and the role it plays in our perceptions. We MUST be aware of editing at all times, and help our kids and students understand its power as well.