Unless it’s the editor’s intent, an audience shouldn’t notice cuts between shots or transitions between scenes. Think: the wipe edit in A New Hope; or, the match cut in 2001: A Space Odyssey; the dolly zoom interspersed with the violent action shots in Raging Bull. These edits are iconic for adding style and substance to their respective films. They’re integral to the success of telling the story.
Unless it’s the editor’s intent, the audience should not notice transitions between characters in a dialogue scene or quick fades that flow as effortlessly as the narrative itself. Editing, we learn by studying editors, is method. Editors learn by immersing themselves in the script and in the daily shots and in the dark rooms with hundreds of terabytes of film that would run miles long (sometimes it does). A good editor makes a director’s vision shine. A great editor’s director gets them the shots they need to build the story.
Acting is different than editing, he writes, seriously. Great acting, as with great editing, should lift a script into the stratosphere. It should inspire! What, then, constitutes great acting: technical touchpoints; a “feeling?” Is it how and how much an actor appropriately emotes? Is it the ability to recite long lectures of soliloquy, or to spit lines ticky-tacky with one or more scene partners? Is it, “you know it when you see it?”
Actors engage in method, too. This immersion technique is meant to cut the distance between the character and the performance. Perfect method acting aims to remove the human from the performance entirely, as if the person were to be a vessel for lines and blocking. It’s not a new technique, but it’s rarely practiced anymore, if it ever was at all (known cobbler and part-time actor, Daniel Day-Lewis, is a famous, noted exception). Anecdotal evidence points to words like “arrogant” and “self-indulgent.” If the “point” is to immerse oneself so deeply in character study that the performance feels “real,” can it ever? If one was not a soldier in World War I, should one attempt to achieve appropriate levels of shell shock to play a soldier with smoldering PTSD? Should a man who hasn’t experienced loss and death fake it for real? Continue reading