Lecture #9: ACTING, DIRECTING & the EDIT

This week we have guest Jason Tobin for a session on looking at the relationship between acting and editing.

What techniques can help emphasize the feeling of a scene? Sometimes it is as important to see the reaction, or to linger on a shot. Editing is about pace, rhythm and emotion — this class will get us to think about how you make sure you capture this when shooting. In this session we look at some of the considerations around shooting for the edit, ways that different directors approach it, and we will also watch professional actors perform a scene in a few different ways, thinking about approaches to getting the coverage we would need in the editing room.

In the last few weeks we looked at scene construction and in this week’s in-class workshop will look at how directing, shooting and acting interact with the art of editing.

The class will be split in two parts: the first half will be an acting workshop, to help students understand the dynamics of scene construction from the other side of the lens. The second half of the class we will do scene breakdowns of a few different films, and Jason and his professional actors will show you live the options for shooting and for editing a scene.

Jason Tobin on “Are Actors Liars?”


We worked on interpreting a scene from  Kramer vs. Kramer and then watched the award-winning actors on screen as they played it.


Thelma Schoonmaker talks about editing improv in Raging Bull

Lisa Churgin on editing Tobey Maguire and Lasse Hallstrom — Directing actors

Anne V. Coates on editing “Lawrence of Arabia”

Considering Dede Allen: The Editor as Revolutionary 



Lecture #5: Rhythm, Pace, Emotion

This week we focus on Rhythm, Pace and Emotion in editing.

We also focus on the work and teachings of editor Walter Murch.

Murch has worked on some incredible award winning films. He edited sound on American Graffiti (1973) and The Godfather: Part II (1974), won his first Academy Award nomination for The Conversation (1974), won his first Oscar for Apocalypse Now (1979), and won an unprecedented double Oscar for sound and film editing for his work on The English Patient (1996). Murch’s editing Oscar was the first to be awarded for an electronically edited film (using the Avid system), and he is the only person ever to win Oscars for both sound mixing and film editing.

Lecture #6 Slides


Chapter 29 “The Picture Edit and Pace” The Technique of Film and Video Editing: History, Theory, and Practice.

Walter Murch, 1995, In the Blink of an Eye: A perspective on Film Editing. Silman-James  Press.

Ondaatje, Michael, 2004, The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film, Knopf.


The Conversation, (1974)  Francis Ford Coppola

Excerpts from: The English Patient (2005)Anthony Minghella, Raising Arizona (1987) Coen Brothers, The  Conformist (1971) Bertolucci, In the Mood For Love (2000) Wong Kar-Wai, The Godfather II (1974) Francis Ford Coppola

Walter Much: The rule of 6

  1. Emotion: How will this cut affect the audience emotionally at this particular moment in the film?
  2. Story: Does the edit move the story forward in a meaningful way?
  3. Rhythm: Is the cut at a point that makes rhythmic sense?
  4. Eye Trace: How does the cut effect the location and movement of the audience’s focus in that particular film?
  5. Two-Dimensional Plane of Screen: Is the axis followed properly?
  6. Three-Dimensional Space: Is the cut true to established physical and spatial relationships?

Pace, Rhythm & Timing

Comic and action pacing in Raising Arizona (very low quality clip)

The complex and subtle pacing of the assassination sequence in The Conformist.

Mood and variation of pacing in Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000). This is a documentary on the film.

The Conversation (1974)

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Walter Murch on Rhythm

In Conversation with Walter Murch, Kiran Ganti

Much speaks about transitions and the role of transitions in editing.

“At the basic level, a transition is simply the process of changing from some state A to another state, B. What we should examine carefully is the degree of change, and our awareness of it. Change is happening all the time, though we are not always conscious of it. But without change there is no perception. This is somewhat of a paradox”

Walter Murch Articles

An incredible resource of articles, chapters, audio interviews and other material with Walter Murch.


This week we will look at a few different elements of editing that are a part of the tradition of storytelling. Editing devices convey meaning, as does time, rhythm and the construction of point of view.

“When to Cut” is as important as “When Not to Cut”. We will look at examples in class from a number of films.

We also review some of your work from Assignment #1.


Andrei Tarkovsky. Chapter III “Imprinted Time” in  Sculpting in Time: Tarkovsky the Great Russian Filmmaker Discusses his Art, 1989

Reshela DuPuis,  Power and Pleasure in Campion’s Piano, 1996

Christopher Llewellyn Reed,  2012, Chapter 2: “To Cut or Not To Cut” Film Editing Theory and Practice, Dulles, VA: David Pallai.

Laura Mulvey’s Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, 1975


The Piano, 1993, Jane Campion

Excerpts from: Happiness (1999) Solondz, Rear Window (1954) Hitchcock, The Sacrifice (1989) Tarkovsky


We will go through the key terms of coverage. Know how to shoot well and cover a scene so you can edit well.

Intro to “Happiness” by Todd Solondz (1998) shows 6 shots in the scene (2shot, OTS on Joy, OTS on Andy, CU Joy, CU Andy, Insert ashtray)

POV, Eye-line Matching & The Gaze

“Cinematic codes create a gaze, a world and an object, thereby producing an illusion cut to the measure of desire.” (Laura Mulvey 1975:16)

Rear Window (1954) Hitchcock

Eyeline Matching in Rear Window

Eyeline Matching in Star Wars

Sculpting in Time

The Sacrifice (1989) Andrei Tarkovsky

Directed By, a documentary on Tarkovsky with excerpts from his book “Sculpting in Time”

A Message to Young People from Andrei Tarkovsky

A City of Sadness, 1989, Hsiao-hsien Hou


This week we look at how time is constructed through different kinds of editing: Parallel Editing, Temporal Ellipsis and Temporal Expansion.

We also watched Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind

Click below for a few links to films we watched & discussed this week.



In this way of storytelling through editing, two different pieces actions are presented in fragments cutting from one to another, implying simultaneous time.  Also sometimes called Cross-Cutting.

A few classic examples are below.

Strangers on a Train (1951), Hitchcock

The Godfather (1972)

Silence of the Lambs (1991)


Elliptical Editing refers to omitting or cutting  out part of an event to imply time has passed. This is an easy way to make an event take less screen time than it does in reality. Often dissolves are used to signify going forward in time, or flashbacks. Also Swish Pans and wipes are used to signify a series of events.

Sometimes flashbacks can be done in straight cuts. Look at this stunning example from Oldboy.


This is the opposite of Elliptical editing. In this case the editing stretches out time. This is often used in action sequences. Eisenstein used expansion in several films through overlapping editing. “In October Eisenstein overlaps several shots of rising bridges in order to stress the significance of the moment.” (Bordwell 260)

Taxi Driver (1976)

In the final scene of Taxi Driver there is a mix of slow motion, long takes and freeze frames to emphasise the drama of the situation.


What about holding onto a moment, without cutting?  TSAI Ming-Liang is one of the contemporary masters of holding shots for even upwards of 10 minutes. Many editors talk about how holding a shot can be as important as cutting, and the importance of using intuition or as Dede Allen says ‘cutting with the gut’.


TSAI comes from earlier approaches such as HOU and OZU who used formal fixed cameras and long takes to create atmosphere and time.

Stray Dogs (2013), Tsai Ming-Liang

Interview with Tsai Ming-Liang & Lee Kang-Sheng


The Birds (1963) Fire Scene


This week we look at some of the basic concepts that developed the language and grammar of film editing. We spend a bit of time talking about Sergei Eisenstein and his theories around editing, and some of the innovations and experiments that were happening in the early period of film history.

The second half of the lecture we learn about technical aspects of Continuity Editing.

In the workshop this week we start shooting our Action Continuity Assignment in groups to prepare to for the edit next week.

Click on the links below for films we watched & discussed this week.


  • Film Form: Essays in Film Theory, by Sergei Eisenstein, Edited and translated by Jay Leyda, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc, 1949, New York. Selections from Chapters 1, 4 & 6

We  watched the first section of  The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing available in the Run Run Shaw Media Library.


Kuleshov Effect

Eisenstein the Father of Montage

This is a great link to explain visually Eisenstein’s five methods of montage: Metric, Rhythmic, Tonal, Over Tonal and Intellectual.

Odessa Steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin

Odessa sequence cut together with the homage from The Untouchables by Brain DePalma


Dziga Vertov, The Man with the Movie Camera (1929)
“This film is famous for the range of cinematic techniques Vertov invents, deploys or develops, such as double exposure, fast motion, slow motion, freeze frames, jump cuts, split screens, Dutch angles, extreme close-ups, tracking shots, footage played backwards, stop motion animations and a self-reflexive style.”

Cinematic Orchestra track “Awakening of a Woman” set to Man with a Movie Camera

Luis Bunuel, Un Chien Andalou (1929)


180 Degree rule, explained with clips

Breaking down the 180 Degree rule

Shot Reverse Shot example

Match on Action

Filmmaking Tutorial: 180 Degree Rule and Other Shot Sequence Tips