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  • Vinayak Khithani

Idea #89 - How Do You Know When to Cut?

To be an editor involves many a facet to itself - imagination, creativity, sensibility, practice and perfection. The tiniest of details often leaves the deepest of impressions. Today we watched How Does an Editor Think and Feel to learn when an editor needs to simply cut.

The emotions that go unsaid are conveyed by the eyes. The change in the actor’s eyes is what signals the editor to keep their gear ready. One may cut the scene as soon as the moment of epiphany is delivered while one may choose to linger a little longer and continue to focus on the eyes. Even a second of delay changes entirely the tone of the narrative!

Another critical aspect to cutting scenes is that emotions take time. The actor’s face before they speak is but one half of establishing a connection between the audience and the actor. The second half is their face after they have spoken. The time an editor chooses to spare these emotions has a significant impact on the tone and narration of the film. Timing is not a conscious process, an editor has to harmonise his cuts with the natural rhythm of the scene.

While a cut is supposed to be seamless, invisible even, so much so that the audience does not even realise when the shots change; sometimes it takes a cut to be abrupt to render the right emotion, like in case of urgency, anger, frustration, when the mind tends to be out of focus, patience wavering.

To know when to cut is an innate instinct every good filmmaker possesses, and is unique to each individual. Although it is an inborn understanding, it can be honed further, like any other skill.

“Editing is very similar to dance in that way, you can explain the rudiments of dance, but to really learn how to dance, you have to dance.” - Walter Murch, Academy-winning film editor

Written and curated by Arya Kastwar


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