Film & TV

Editing: Part 1

Martin Scorsese

Lesson time 14:39 min

Martin reveals the magic of the edit room, and shares the qualities you should look for in an editor. He also prepares you for the continuous evolution that is intrinsic to the editing process.

Martin Scorsese
Teaches Filmmaking
In 30 lessons, learn the art of film from the director of Goodfellas, The Departed, and Taxi Driver.
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For me, the editing room itself is something that is as sacred as about as the set is, you know. So here is where the film really comes alive, I feel. And when people talk about movies or cinema, they usually speak of images or the image, you know. I think what they're really talking about is sequences of images. So when we edit a picture or movie, we put one image next to another image to create the impression of a continuous action. And then there are variations, I mean, you play with it. Discontinuities, ellipses, surprising cuts that sort of take you and reorient your sense of time and place, you know. But creating the impression of continuous action is how we tell stories in time, but there's something else for me. It's what I think of as the heart of cinema, because every time I get to the editing room, I'm struck by it all over again. And this is every time. One has to understand, sometimes you get in there you're very tired, and sometimes it's very rote kind of work. It's hard. Physical work at times, and then something happens, and I'm struck by it all over again. You take one image, and you put it together with another image, and there's a third phantom event that happens in the mind's eye. You could call it an image, or maybe a thought, or a sensation. Something happens. It's absolutely unique to this particular combination, or collision, of moving images. And if you take a frame away from one shot, or you add a couple of frames to the other shot, the image in the mind's eye changes. This will always be a wonder to me, and by the way, often in the old days, we used to see films in very bad prints which involved-- which had some jump cuts in it, or scratches, or pieces missing, and the scenes were different. By accident, they were different. So this addition and subtraction of one or two frames-- one frame. Everything depends on that one frame. It is storytelling. One frame. Each frame is important. You know Eisenstein, Sergei Eisenstein, talked about-- well, he talked about this in an extremely theoretical level. [MUSIC PLAYING] I would say that the power of his films, Eisenstein's films, happens to me despite the theoretical ideas. And this is where, you know, a good film comes alive as something more than just a succession of beautifully composed rendering of script pages, basically. This is filmmaking. You have to understand that when I started making films in the early '60s-- short films at NYU, which became a feature towards the end of the late 60s before main streets etc-- these things where you made the film yourself, you know. You were expected to, as I said, not only write the film, but know how to shoot it with a camera. But I found that ultimately, too, we were expected to edit the films ourselves, which is what I did. I had a couple of friends who helped me at NYU. We kind of switched jobs. ...

Study with Scorsese

Martin Scorsese drew his first storyboard when he was eight. Today he’s a legendary director whose films from Mean Streets to The Wolf of Wall Street have shaped movie history. In his first-ever online film class, the Oscar winner teaches his approach, from storytelling to editing to working with actors. He deconstructs films and breaks down his craft, changing how you make and watch movies.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Scorsese is a master. It's so nice to hear from his experience, his way of thinking and his absurd huge amount of knowledge. Thanks for this class.

A lot of things I thought are not normal and is due to my shortcomings as a director, turned out to be common problems happening even to the best of the directors. I learned a lot, but to sum it up: Simplicity is key, story is the most important, that has to be your main focus, and never give up, it is always gonna be hard.

Martin Scorsese is a grand teacher. He is so inspiring and teaches filmmaking in such a way that moves the students to strive for the impossible when it comes to movie making.

From a directors point of view every aspect of film has been showed in one form or another. and taught in a way that is relatable with complete understanding of the craft with love and wisdom! Thanks Martin.



That movie clip scared me like nuts. Editing is definitely important for impact of storytelling. I completely understand you Mr Scorsese. Thank you, thank you very much for the great lesson.


I love hearing him refer to the frames in terms of the "mind's eye". It is also greater with the film clip to demonstrate what he is referring to.

Troy B.

Listing to stories that Mr. Scorses tell is a gift because the man has so much experience.

Monique B.

Oh wow. This lesson is extraordinary for me. When I did an interview late last year, my sister edited it. I wasn't around during the edit for practical reasons. When she finally finished it, it came out better than I thought and she included still pictures and a clip from the film Ben-Hur since the interview was about my play which takes place during the chariot racing sport in Ancient Rome. The stills and the clip helped clarify for the audience what we were talking about and also prevented boredom. So, editing principles apply whether we are editing a film, an interview or a short. Great lesson.

Eric G.

"If your first cut doesn't make you ill, you're in trouble." ~ George Lucas...whow, that was hilarious. Great input from Martin. That, and the comment about shooting your last scene first and going backwards could be a way to build the story...makes sense. Multiple editors and multiple writers? Well, I do currently have three writers working on an original feature I hope to be able shoot year after next when my current two are finished, but none of them know they are all working on the same script...could be interesting. Now I know it was a good idea. We'll see where it goes...plot is great, but development will be the challenge.

Anton M.

The idea of perceiving the film's length differently in human's mind is so incredible

Jack F.

Excited to hear about Marty's working relationship with Thelma Schoonmaker.

Anastacia S.

What a privilege to have access to this content and Mr. Scorsese's deep knowledge and experience in making film, let alone his passion for and life dedication to it. MasterClass is a gift.

Robert A.

Awesome!!!. I really needed to know more about the editing process!!!. Thank you Martin!!!. Onward!!!


Session on editing is most inspiring to me as writer. It really energizes me feeling my gifted sparked story has evolved to the media of digital distribution.