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How Do Film Editors Actually Edit a Movie?

The world of movie editing is an enigmatic one if you aren’t actually an editor. How in the world do they manage to take hours of footage, sift through it all, and make decisions on which scenes to cut from the final film? I’m sure we all have watched a film’s deleted scenes and wondered why the filmmakers made the decision to cut certain scenes and keep others. While sometimes there are basic constraints to fight like a movie’s run time, it turns out there isn’t really any magic formula behind assembling a film. A good chunk of the work simply goes by gut.

If you’re like me, your experience in movie-making doesn’t go much beyond playing with iMovie for your high school chemistry project, so the idea of feeling your way through shaping a film can be a tough concept to grasp. However, a lot of the heart and emotion behind a scene can come to the audience thanks to a sharp editor. The video above from YouTube user Every Frame A Painting is full of several examples where a film has strategically pieced together shots to convey a point to the audience. To make you feel a character’s longing they can allow a lingering shot to play out, and on the flip side they can make you feel frustrated and flustered by quickly and abruptly changing from shot to shot. Crafting a film isn’t just smushing errant scenes together and calling it a movie–it’s artfully piecing them together to serve as a scaffolding for the plot.

Of course, the end of the video touches on the real question: if being a good editor is all about following your intuition, how the hell are you supposed to learn to be one? The answer is, of course, practice. A lot. Film is an art, and the only way to excel at it is to constantly play around with the craft and try new things. You can take all the courses you can find and listen to the advice of other professionals in the industry, but at the end of the day, the best editors are those who have logged hours in film and bring their heart and creativity to the work.

Are you a film editor? Tell us about your process when you’re working on a film. What are some of the unique methods you use? What’s some of the best editing advice you’ve received? Tell us about it in the comments!

Image credit: Leon Terra/Flickr.com

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