The Essence of Editing: Should We Be Shouldering the Weight of Post-Production?

Editors Guild by Edgar Burksen A.C.E.

In 1970, as an apprentice in the cutting room of Richard Marden, editor of Sunday Bloody Sunday, we were a happy bunch; Dick, two assistants and myself. Now, as a motion picture editor, I’m mostly by myself, only sharing occasional intense sessions with the director and/or producer.

Assistant editors have disappeared or are shared commodities, and apprentices are completely gone — replaced by what is now called a union contract-evading post-production assistant. As electronics started to replace film and, subsequently, tape gave way to digital, we as editors were so enamored by the expanded creative possibilities of our new devices that we failed to notice how all the human activity slowly faded away from around us.

Ever since editing was accidently discovered when someone started to glue together two film reels — just like any other manufacturing that happened in the era of the industrial revolution — the work was divvied up in highly specialized jobs that, in the end, delivered a pretty sophisticated product. When you look at all the manpower that went into making regular films, even if you don’t count what went on in front of the camera, it could easily run into the hundreds for 10 reels of a 90-minute final product.

The improvements that the mechanical process of filmmaking was able to implement in the 20th century were rather minimal; in the cutting rooms, they went from writing ink numbers on the edge of the film to working on numbering machines and hot splicers that caused you to lose a frame with each cut to the clear tape splicers. It eliminated just a few jobs. read more...

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