Editors Guild by Debra Kaufman
What Hath MTV Wrought?
When the cable channel Music Television (MTV) began airing music videos on August 1, 1981, with the prescient “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles, no one had seen anything like it. An entire network devoted to music, where your favorite bands sang the songs while they danced, cavorted in wild costumes, acted out stories and mugged in crazy environments. Editors also paid attention to the assemblage of shots in these previously unseen videos: lightning-fast edits, one after the other, that left the viewer breathless, maybe a little dazed––even confused–– but definitely excited.
Moving pictures have never been the same since. MTV music videos—brash, experimental, so-rapid-that-you-simply-had-to-give-in-to-the-flow—quickly infiltrated every form of media, making their editorial style felt almost immediately in television shows like Miami Vice (1984-1989) and eventually movies like Flashdance (1983) and even Natural Born Killers (1994).
On the occasion of MTV’s 25th birthday, it is time to contemplate the results of this phenomenon. Has MTV reinvented or hobbled the art and craft of editing? Or, to bring the question to its essence: A quarter of a century later, what, if any, has been MTV-style editing’s impact on filmmakers and editors––and on the public that consumes the media they create?
Editors Guild Magazine spoke to a half-dozen editors, all of them part of or touched by the MTV mystique, about their take on this media change.
Debunking the Myths
One misconception can be disproved right away. Not all editors cutting MTV-style were MTV fans. In fact, some of them had never even seen the cable channel. Robert A. Daniels, ACE, now retired, held the longest tenure as editor on Miami Vice. Although the producers reputedly sold the show to the network by describing it as “MTV cops,” Daniels admits he didn’t have cable when he was cutting the show and had seen only one or two MTV music videos. read more...