Archive for First Cut: Conversations with Film Editors

That Inner Voice

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , on February 7, 2015 by dcairns




Naturally, I bought a bunch of books when I was in New York earlier this week. I always find when I go to Strand that they have a gazillion books but nothing I need (though the first time I visited I was astonished to bump into Mark Cousins: two guys from Edinburgh in the film section, whaddayaknow?), whereas the lovely Mercer Street Books & Records is built on a human scale: there’s one row of shelves on film, and I can look through it in a leisurely and comfortable fashion with jazz playing, and always find at least four or five things I want. This time there were two nice books of interviews with film editors. One had Dede Allen and Anne V. Coates, but was more expensive. It’s probably still there, New Yorkers! I went for Gabriella Oldham’s First Cut: Conversations with Film Editors, the cheaper paperback. Opening it at random I looked at the piece of Sidney Levin, who cut NASHVILLE and a bunch of Martin Ritt films. I don’t know Ritt’s work well, so I wondered how interesting it would be. It was EXTREMELY interesting.

Oldham asks a question about music and gets an answer that dovetails into addressing Universal Artistic Principles.


Martin Ritt’s SOUNDER, edited by Sidney Levin.

“If you cut to the beat, you’re being predictable, which is okay. And it will help you if you want to pull the rug out from under the audience later by an unexpected change of rhythm; that’s fun to do. On an emotional scene, I will often cut rhythmically until something’s about to happen, then I’ll throw everything off so you get tripped. It’s the art of seduction. You’re always seducing. You’re seducing the audiences, your lovers, your readers. You’re seducing everybody into giving away their protection. By setting up a structure, you’re allowing them to be protected. Suddenly you pull the structure out, they’re unprotected but they feel safe, and that’s the art of seduction. Then you go ahead and do what you have to do. I don’t know if I can say any more than that because how can you articulate something that’s instinctive? You just know. And the process of becoming an artist is to trust when you know. The problem with many directors and producers is that they don’t know what they know! They see it, but they don’t believe it. They’re afraid to believe what they’ve seen. You have to learn to trust that inner voice that never lies. But if you’re full of fear, you can’t hear that voice. And then you’ll try to codify what it is that makes something right. You realize, of course, that can’t be done.”