Mary Ann Skweres explores the difficult task of judging editing during awards season.
Of all the collaborative filmmaking crafts, editing is perhaps the hardest creative art to judge, yet among the most critical in terms of shaping the story. Although during the course of the production the editor usually puts the initial edit together, sometimes with little input from the director, once production is complete the polishing of the film is normally done in close partnership with the director, blurring the line between the editor’s contribution and the director’s vision.
So how should the craft of editing be judged? What criteria would an Oscar-winning editor, such as Michael Kahn – who has worked with director Steven Spielberg for over 37 years and most recently edited the Oscar-nominated Lincoln– use to judge whether an edit is award-worthy? “When you see something that is well edited, you don’t know if the editor did it from his own devices or if he sat with the director who told him exactly what to do,” Kahn said. “That is something we will never know. What you can judge by is if it’s a great film. If it is a good film and it works well, you know the editor had a lot to do with making it happen. The films that are nominated, you look at them and make assumptions as to how much a director did. How much the editor contributed. It’s the editor and the director together. It’s a team. It’s a collaboration.”
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