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Arts & Entertainment


Mira Nair

Lesson time 15:16 min

Learn the benefits of working closely with an editor throughout shooting, and how to use rhythm and juxtaposition of scenes in the edit to alter the mood of your film.

Mira Nair
Teaches Independent Filmmaking
The Oscar-nominated director teaches her methods for directing powerful performances, maximizing budgets, and bringing authentic stories to life.
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I remember the excitement. I felt when I first met Barry Brown, who then consequently edited several of my films. I had seen a documentary of his, "The War at Home," and I was making documentaries at the time. And to see the boldness and incredible, almost bravery of the cutting of elliptically going into scenes and the way he layered scenes-- was unafraid of a parallel cutting. And moving something completely along with elliptical gaps in each one that really told a story very quickly, economically, and especially, musically. I was extremely excited. And I asked him to cut one of my early documentaries, "India Cabaret," which had all these qualities of music, and performance, and drama. But it had to be cut in that inventive way that Barry brought to the table. And he later cut "Salaam Bombay!" and also, "Queen of Katwe," my last film. So it's the excitement of seeing how they untraditionally used the form that first got me excited about editing with Barry Brown. And then consequently, when he couldn't cut "Monsoon Wedding," he sent me one of his great proteges who now is a brilliant editor in her right, Allyson Johnson-- who cut several films of mine, as well. I think musical rhythm in an editor-- for me-- says a lot. How somebody responds to music and how some editors cut images to music. Rhythm is the essence of editing in cinema. And rhythm is ineffable. You can't quite put your finger on it. But rhythm is the essence really, of how a story is told. And editing is the most exciting part of filmmaking-- for me-- after shooting because you really, it's the third rewrite-- as someone says. There's several ways to rewrite a picture, but it's the editing that is the final rewrite, where you can totally create almost a new structure if you wish. [MUSIC PLAYING] I share the scripts usually in the second or third draft, with my editor. Before we go on to shoot. Normally, that's not necessarily anything more than saying here's what I'm doing. Maybe what do you think of it, et cetera. But we normally don't get into the cutting style, or the editing style, or talking of the details before the film is shot-- normally. Throughout the shooting, I like to have the editor with me. Again, I'm attracted to the ensemble film. I'm attracted to the carnival of life. So a lot of times, the integrating cutting of stories, the following the thread line of one story and paralleling it with another-- all that is much more of the editor's vocabulary. So I want to be sure while I'm cutting that I'm not, not thinking of certain things, which the editor may be thinking of. While I'm shooting-- as I said before-- I'm always creating a separate bank of images that I know will come into play in some way. And will help us with the editing. So all this fodder is given to the editor. And as we are shooting, a week into shooting-- for instance-- I'll begin to see an assembly of what I'm trying to do. And also of what, maybe, we might have missed....

Harness the power of your roots

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mira Nair approaches directing with the “heart of a poet and the skin of an elephant,” spurred by rejection and fighting to bring uncompromising stories to film. In the Golden Lion-winning director’s MasterClass, learn to make a big impact on a small budget in film production, evoke the best from actors and nonactors, and protect your creative vision so you tell the story that can only come from you.


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

Helped me understand what I must do to make my next film. I feel like I'm ready now.

My top favorite MasterClass on here next to Ron Howard and Shonda Rhimes' classes. LOVED IT! Thanks so much Mira, for being incredible and such an inspiration!

This was such an amazing Masterclass! Mira Nair is an phenomenal teacher who not only offers her students valuable insight but also grounded advice.

It's the guidance how to proceed with the film making. Appreciate the effort being put by the masters to share their insights and the wisdom gained from years of work with the students of film making to produce artistic and expressive moving images.


A fellow student

Hey, there were many times in this lesson where Mira is referencing something, but we don't see it. It creates dissonance. I end up having to stop the lesson, search it, then come back. Thanks!

Frédérique D.

I loved Monsoon Wedding particularly the scene when Vijay Raaz is eating a flower under a rain of flowers, I found this moment so beautiful and poetic that since I recorded it on tv I could play it several times in a row and watch it every time with the same pleasure.

R.G. R.

The temptation to re-edit is strong at times. That's why 'living with the film" is important. Sometimes, it is worth attempting to re-edit what has already been 'out there'; other times it can be a waste of time. But I do like and take her thoughts seriously on the idea of the emotional need to re-visit a film to see if it is worth editing it anew.


I see what she means when she calls editing the final rewrite. Sorkin talks about wanting to rewrite projects that have been out there for years.


I think it takes guts too allow someone else to edit a film that you shot.


She's so intense and passionate. I love her. ADR saved many movies I've made.

A fellow student

Amazing lesson on editing of how to add more dimensions and layers. Thank you so much!


Another important hands-on (non-theoretic) lesson. I'm trying to answer the question, "Which could I most comfortably delegate, camera work or editing?" I suspect I'm better at camera work than editing, but because so many of the subtleties of story and acting can be gained or lost in "the cut," it would be hard for me to let someone else edit.