The Empire Strikes Back

One of the most important but rarely talked about positions in filmmaking is the editor. Helping a director assemble the film into meaningful moments, knowing when to cut away or linger on a shot, getting that rhythm down that pulls in a audience members and has them reacting a certain way—these are all parts of the editor’s job. How do editors decide where to put the cut in the film? How do they know when to move away from one shot to another? They’re subtle distinctions that can end up having a major influence on the emotions of a scene and the success of a film.

Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos of the Every Frame A Painting YouTube series tackle this question in their latest video. They look at excellently edited sequences in various films and incorporate interviews with editors to try to articulate exactly when is the appropriate time in a shot to cut away. The editors all agree it’s about matching the emotion of the actors (and the director’s intent), so they don’t want to draw it out too long—except in those cases when they do.

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It all sounds kind of antithetical and hard to grasp, but then editing is an elusive art form in which each project, each shot, is different and calls for different approaches. Sometimes editors will linger on a shot to show the emotional changes in a character; other times they will cut away to deny audiences that release. The video is an interesting look at a part of filmmaking that is often taken for granted, illuminating key decisions that help audiences become even more emotionally involved with a film.