film industry


Compared to many of the other Oscar categories, “Best Film Editing” is often a tough one to predict.  With “Best Cinematography,” “Best Art Direction,” and “Best Costume Design,” for instance, you can clearly see how each nominee demonstrated a mastery of their craft and set themselves apart from their peers.  With editing, however, aptly called “The Invisible Art” of cinema, what’s been left out is just as important as what ends up in the final cut.  The audience has no realistic way of knowing what compromises in performance the editor had to make in order to elucidate a specific plot point or which amazing shots couldn’t be used simply because they presented an inconsistency in story or character.  Even a seasoned editor, who knows better than anyone else what the editorial process involves, may not be able to recognize a brilliant feat of editing without a glimpse of what was left on the cutting room floor.  Sometimes a poorly written, haphazardly-shot mess of a story can be turned into something meaningful in the skillful hands of a top-notch editor, and similarly, a beautiful story can be butchered by an editor who doesn’t let the material find its own voice and tries to impose a style that doesn’t fit the material. (more…)

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In case anybody was still wondering if Avid’s recent rebranding was a good idea, I recently attended two industry events that helped prove that the company that brought us Media Composer twenty years ago is not going anywhere anytime soon.  With a renewed sense of forward thinking and a commitment to actually listening to the users of their product, Avid’s recent releases of their 3.0 and 4.0 versions of Media Composer, along with a spiffy new series of hardware, helped prove to customers that there are still some advantages to throwing down a little extra cash to buy the editing toolset used by the majority of big-budget Hollywood productions. (more…)

One of the hardest parts of working in the entertainment industry is the constant job uncertainty. Not always having a steady paycheck and not knowing where and when your next job might start can create significant stress and cause the faint of heart to swear off freelancing forever. However, constant change can also be a great asset. New co-workers, new challenges, and a change of scenery prevent you from getting bored, restless, and unproductive. For those of you who don’t have an agent and a phone that’s ringing off the hook with job offers, here are a few tips I’ve found to be useful in my burgeoning career as a freelancer.

1. Use every job-hunting resource available to you.

Jobs

90% of the jobs you will ever get in this industry will be through word of mouth. As you start out, informally contact family friends or acquaintances who have worked in the industry. Alumni networks can also prove useful. When you contact someone (I find e-mail to be less intrusive than telephone), don’t ask if they can get you a job. Instead, ask them for advice and see if you can meet up for coffee. Follow up with them every few weeks or months so they don’t forget about you. If you make a good impression, your name might just pop into their head when someone asks if they know anyone available for hire.

There are also numerous web sites with entertainment industry job postings, a few of which I have linked to on the “Resources” page of this blog. I tend to find the jobs advertised on these sites to be either pretty demanding in terms of prior experience, lacking in fair compensation, or overcrowded with applicants. But it never hurts to apply. (more…)

Creativity

In order to be a successful editor, you need to possess a masterful ability to control pacing, character, and story, all while using a style that fits the tone and subject matter of the piece, but is uniquely your own. Easier said than done (every editor has probably had numerous run-ins with people who think the editor simply “removes the bad parts” and selects the best takes, and the rest of the film creates itself).

In order to be able to implement your creative vision, though, you also need to possess a certain mastery of the tools used to edit a film or television show together. Until recently, this was done with expensive specialized hardware (KEMs, Moviolas, Steenbecks, etc.); now the vast majority of it is done with computers. The learning curve has been significantly flattened, as anyone with a Mac computer and a copy of Final Cut Pro can edit their own movies as easily as a professional editor can. (more…)

Christopher Rouse

Christopher Rouse won the “Best Film Editing” Oscar last night for his brilliant work on “The Bourne Ultimatum.” I avoided serious embarrassment in front of my friends by correctly predicting his win. Among the clips shown yesterday at the “Invisible Art, Visible Artists” panel (see my earlier post on the subject), Rouse’s showed the best mastery of story, character, and pacing. While I had already seen several of the nominated films, it’s always good to re-watch parts of them with the sole purpose of analyzing the editing; usually when you’re watching for the first time, the story and characters (hopefully!) demand most of your attention, and the editing is something you feel without thinking about it. The “Bourne” clip showed Desh the assassin stalking Nicky through the streets and rooftops of Tangiers, with Bourne in hot pursuit, culminating in an intense mano-a-mano battle. The suspense that Rouse created by expertly intercutting Nicky’s frantic escape with the emotionless, methodical stalking of a trained assassin sent chills down my spine. While many viewers have complained that Paul Greengrass’s trademark handheld, action-packed close-ups can be disorienting and sickening, it takes tremendous skill to be able to weave half-second fragments of these shots into a coherent scene with logical pacing. There are so many possible combinations of shots that a weaker editor could miss the mark entirely. (more…)

Blu-ray

Today Toshiba announced that they are abandoning their HD DVD format, meaning that Sony’s Blu-ray will take over as the industry standard for disc-based high definition home entertainment. All I can say is, it’s about time! Consumers have been suffering for several years now, unable to purchase either format without worrying that it might become obsolete at any moment. Technology changes at a fast enough rate that most of our electronics already become dated in 3 or 4 years. And who wanted to buy a $600 player that could only play half of the titles available in HD anyway? Until just recently, the studios were split evenly as to which format their titles would be released on.

With the improvement of Blu-ray technology and HD television signals finding their way into more and more U.S. homes these days, the initial overhead cost of being able to watch movies in HD is falling steadily. For a few hundred dollars’ investment, people who already own HDTV sets can experience the crisp detail, color, and sound of films the way they were meant to be seen. Every time I walk into a Best Buy and see a demo movie in 1080P (“full HD”), I am absolutely blown away by the quality.

Until digital distribution becomes the standard for buying and renting video content (I’m confident we’re at least a few years away), it will be nice to have a single, large-storage-capacity (50 GB!) DVD format. Now let’s just hope the studios use the technology to it’s full potential, educating the public about the differences between HD and SD (many are still clueless), and packing each disc with a multitude of extra content and features that standard definition discs cannot handle. Until they do that, the majority of consumers will be reluctant to replace their existing home theater equipment.