Arts & Entertainment

Editing: Part 1

Martin Scorsese

Lesson time 14:40 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.

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Topics include: The Film Comes Alive in the Edit • Find Editors Who Are Loyal • Editing Is About Experimentation • Pacing Can Begin On-Set


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. ...

About the Instructor

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.

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Martin Scorsese

In 30 lessons, learn the art of film from the director of Goodfellas, The Departed, and Taxi Driver.

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