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Sandra Merkatz

Does an editor decide everything himself?

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Hello! :)

After having dealt extensively with the topic of lighting, I am now interested in the work of the editor. What I'm particularly interested in here is whether editors generally work alone on films (even big Hollywood productions), or whether they collaborate with the director or other people. There are also so-called "director cuts", and this term suggests that the director is not involved in the editor's work, or has no say in it. In the credits, usually only one name is mentioned as editor, and not additionally the name of the director or producer.
So my question is: what does an editor's work usually look like? Does he decide everything alone?

Greetings,
Sandra

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Sandra, 

In short, it is all of the above. 

But It really depends on the project (commercial, web, theatrical, etc..) and the people involved.

Strictly talking feature films the term "Directors cut" is not from the editor making all the choices, but more of the Producers and Studio having the final say. The Producers and the Studio and whoever owns the rights to the movie, generally have the final say in the edit and what gets released to the public. Then, if the director wants too/allowed too, he will work on a (Directors cut) with the editor. This can be released outside of the theatrical public release dependent on what the Producers and Studio allow. 

As a Director, you generally don't own the movie, you were hired to Direct. Same with the Editor, you were hired to Edit the movie according to the script/creative. Obviously, there is always room for creativity but ultimately you don't have full creative freedom and make all the decisions yourself. There are teams of people behind projects and it's a very collaborative process. 

At the other end outside of Hollywood productions and feature films you might be delivered a hard drive full of footage and given very limited creative input and you just need to make something "good" for an event edit or product edit, etc... You could be in charge of the edit, music, color, gfx all at once. 

This is a very short answer and I'm sure others will have better input but I hope this gives you a basic idea. 

 

 

   

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Usually the editor works with, collaborates with, the director, just like the cinematographer works with the director. Unless the director is a trained editor, their "director's cut" is the work of the editor working the actual machine and the director supervising that editor to deliver what both of them agree should be the final edited form. A "director's cut" is usually not a situation where the director goes off and independently cuts the project without an editor. 

Sometimes if the director is busy during production while dailies are coming in, they will let the editor do a rough assembly and then a first pass without too much supervision, but then once post-production begins, the director comes and works closely with the editor to create their preferred cut.  If this is for a television show, the director is given a certain amount of time to create their director's cut after the editor's cut, which then gets delivered to the showrunner / producer for their notes.

After that, the network or studio will probably want some changes for the final released or broadcast cut.

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Thank you for your answers!

If I understood that correctly, then it is rather unlikely (at least for large, expensive productions), that the editor works completely on his own and determines how long a scene lasts, how long a take lasts, etc., on his own.

My idea was this: a film is shot and the footage is sent to the editor, who then sits alone in front of his computer and edits the film without consulting the director or producer.

But is the editor's job still an artistic job when everyone can tell him how to edit? Is he not just a tool of the director and the producer?

 

Greetings,
Sandra

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In 50 years I wouldn't be surprised if the job of "editor" in cinema is nearly gone. Every young filmmaker does their own NLE in this era.

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As a professional editor, the way it normally works is that we create a cut on our own first without the Director. Usually it's just an assembly of the script, generally super long as well. Than the director comes in and gives his feedback on the cut, usually it's swapping performances rather then length cuts at first.

Once the director and I have done a few passes together, we show the producers a cut. It's generally here where the producers, the director and the editor sit down and go over the cut. It takes a while, generally a few days of conference calls and/or notes. I make a lot of suggestions on the cut at this point and the director and I will mull about with the producer's notes, doing some, not doing others. We try everything, but not much winds up in the final piece.

Once the producers, director and editor are happy with the show, we will send it out for a larger group screening. The best feedback comes from the group screenings, where the writers, cinematographer, executive producers and cast get to see it and give notes. If we have time to bring everyone together, we will do a round table discussion after and hash out some ideas on what people like or don't like. I'm sad that some people don't think this discussion is worth it, but I always try to push for it because getting feedback is so important. 

I work very closely with my DP's on the cut, I believe their input as being very valuable. I also have a good relationship with the DP's of the projects I edit. I've made a lot of changes to cuts based on DP's notes, especially with framing or takes that they did something special I may have not noticed. It's hard when you have 1800 shots in your final cut, to get every single little fancy move the DP's made. 

Generally the final cut of a film is a conglomerate of notes, forced upon the editor and director by the producers. We fight to get certain things in the film and the producers generally have the final say in a lot of ways It's our job to convince them XYZ is important and it's all down to how good of a negotiator you are. From my perspective as an editor, I like cutting shit because I think telling a story properly is far more important than ego. So it gets kinda disappointing when producers want stuff in the film that sucks or kill stuff that's great. 

Yes some directors have done "directors cuts" of their films, but most of the time it's because of rating or the films just being too long for theatrical. Every minute under 72 minutes or over 120 minutes, is a big deal. They'll wanna extend short films and decrease the length of long films. It's truly sad that's what dictates what we see, but hey that's how things work. Many directors do get final cut and force their producers and distributors to play what they have. That's why you don't see a director's cut of a Christopher Nolan film, because he can do anything he wants. 

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Tyler, they must have had a mess with all these personalities involved in the cutting process. With digital editing is easy. Film must have been a nightmare with moving things back and forth, in and out.

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On 4/24/2019 at 1:49 AM, Sandra Merkatz said:

Thank you for your answers!

 

If I understood that correctly, then it is rather unlikely (at least for large, expensive productions), that the editor works completely on his own and determines how long a scene lasts, how long a take lasts, etc., on his own.

 

My idea was this: a film is shot and the footage is sent to the editor, who then sits alone in front of his computer and edits the film without consulting the director or producer.

 

But is the editor's job still an artistic job when everyone can tell him how to edit? Is he not just a tool of the director and the producer?

 

Greetings,
Sandra

Sandra, everyone on a film is a tool of the director.  Until... the director becomes the tool of the producer! 🙂

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I can only say that editing is one of the most important tools in the making of a film. It is by far one of the most creative crafts in the arts. You can completely change the tone of any piece in editing, based on the exact same footage the director shot. It can take a film from bad to good all by itself, and vice versa, of course. So whenever I see it getting pooh-poohed, and treated as merely assembly that anyone can do with the right software, well, I just very strongly disagree. It is highly creative and very few people are good at it. But most think they are.

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