Sven Pape(S): So what are we doing today? Karen Pearlman (K):When you ask an editor what they literally do in the edit suite generally an editor will say well it’s intuitive, and and that’s fair enough, but I think it’s possible to say more than that. What actions of mind an editor actually goes through in getting from a massive material to something coherent. (S:) So you actually broke it down into five different steps. (K:) The first thing an editor literally does is watch the material. (S:) What does that mean? (K:) Good question. Why is that some kind of expert ability? An editor doesn’t watch the same way an audience watches or even the same way a director watches. An editor is a trained watcher who actually does three things: they watch and have immediate responses just like an audience. Right? They laugh they cry, they get annoyed, whatever, but the second thing they’re also doing is that they’re noticing their responses. An audience might just feel something, but an editor feels something and then notices that they feel something, and then the third thing that an editor is doing is kind of the very early stages of imagining how this is all gonna go together. (S:) Now does that affect the way they feel? (K:) So in an ordinary person, you know if you’re watching and noticing what you feel at the same time that can make you a bit, like, paralyzed, but an editor can feel something and make a mental note and keep feeling. I think that’s an expert capacity that actually gets trained or developed. This is a quote from Kate Amend: “I do sit and watch the footage and check my first reaction to what I see. If I laugh, I make a note of it. If I cry, and I do cry watching dailies, then I know that if it resonates with me, it’s going to resonate with an audience. That’s what I do to begin, and then I start to build the story or scene and make those connections.” (S:) That’s really interesting, because when I first watch something, and I have a strong emotional reaction, I make a check mark. I make sure that I don’t forget that first initial reaction to something, so sometimes you get lost in the edit. You don’t know what’s working, what’s not working anymore. (K:)Exactly. (S:) Then I just recall that I had this initial emotional response, and I can just trust that I should go with that. (K:) And and Walter Murch talks about that too. It’s a very kind of physical, almost impulsive, like check-check-check-check… (S:) Cool. What does an editor do as a second step? (K:)The next thing the editor does is something I’m calling sorting. You might call it logging as well. Sorting is giving the material a name or placing it in a bin with other potentially related material. (S:) And what’s important about sorting? (K:) look, I’m gonna give you a quote from Alan Berliner: “What you call something is crucial to the process of determining what you might end up doing with it.” What he’s saying there is that you’re tagging the material, but you’re also in a way, tagging your memory. The big theory here is that editing is an instance of what Clark and Chalmers call extended mind. Um. Thinking doesn’t just happen in your brain. It doesn’t just happen in your brain and your body. It happens in the brain, the body, and the material. The material itself is part of your thoughts. The material is part of thinking, right? So the way that you sort it, is giving it an opportunity to be different kinds of thoughts for different contexts as they arise. (S:) Right. (K:) The sorting is, quote, an epistemic action. (S:) What is epistemic mean? (K:) Epistemic comes from the greek word episteme, meaning knowledge. When you sort something, you are actually creating your knowledge of that material to alter the world, so as to aid and augment cognitive processes such as recognition and search, and that was written in a book called Supersizing the Mind by Andy Clark, and he’s not talking about editing, but when you read it you go, yeah! That’s what an editor does. (S:) And I think that brings us perfectly into the next thing. What is the third thing editors literally do? (K:) Remembering.. What an editor does is scroll through their digital folders, they click on shots, they glance at them to trigger memories and their feelings about those memories, so an editor uses non biological resources to be part of their thinking and remembering. (S:) What is a non biological resource? (K:) Your mind is biological, right? Your brain and body and your mind is also non-biological. That is, your mind is the film. It’s an extended mind. Your thoughts… (S:) It’s an expression of your mind? (K:) No. It is your mind. (S:) Okay. It is my mind. (K:) Here’s the thing. Run with me for a minute. What Andy Clark is saying, if you took away the thing that’s outside of your brain and your body, you would not be able to think. It’s essentially like removing part of your brain, so think about it this way, for an editor, if you took away all the filmed material asked the editor to edit the film,well, you can’t. RIght? You can’t edit the film unless you have the filmed material so then the theory is that the thought doesn’t just belong to you, the thought also, in a sense, belongs to the film. Walter Murch has this fantastic quote: “Films are much smarter than the people who make them.” Editor’s know this is your respecting the material and what it has to say, but what’s cool about this is that you actually have cognitive psychologists and cognitive philosophers saying, “you know what that is actually happening, the film is thinking.” When you reckon… …you sound, you sound like maybe, maybe, maybe not on that one. (S:) I mean whenever I cut a film, I usually, before I cut it, I have some form of creative agreement with whoever the director, the producer, we both think this is what the scene is, and then the moment I start cutting it, it immediately goes in a different direction and most of the time I will not fight that. I will just go along with it and then just present it to the director and many times be very surprised that they actually embrace it as opposed to trying to, “well that’s not what we talked about.” So yeah, I think I could agree with that. (K:) Yeah. An editor who doesn’t let the material do some of the thinking isn’t a very good editor. (S:) Sure. Shall we move on to number four? (K:) So you’ve been watching, you’ve been sorting, you’ve been remembering what happens next is selecting. You can’t compose a film, without first making selections, but every selection you make, changes the film that you are making. If you select one thing that’s really good and then you select another thing that’s really good and you put them together and they don’t really work together, then you go back and you select something different. (S:) What’s the last thing an editor literally does? (K:) Composing. Most people might just call this editing. It’s like oh yeah it’s when you put all the shots together, but we’re calling it composing because we want to distinguish that all five of those things we’ve talked about are editing and composing is just that moment where you actually put the selects into a timeline and shape them in relation to each other. You might also have to go back and watch or sort or remember or select again cause the material might ask for something different than you thought it would. (S:) I really spend my time looking at shots, sorting them and thinking which are the moments that are great on its own. (K:) That’s really interesting. (S:) The reason why I really try to keep selecting and composing two separate things is, don’t want to commit too early to the scene until I know everything about the material independent of the scene if that makes sense. (K:) I reckon Sven this is one of the things that makes you a great editor, if I may say so. (S:) You may. (K:) Thank you. I reckon that you have patience. It’s something great editors have. I watch people trying to edit and I see them get excited by something and they start shaping it and then you kind of dig yourself into a hole by composing it in one direction when it could go a much more interesting direction if you’d just been a little bit more patient. Here’s another really nice analogy and this is from David Kirsh. It’s like a scrabble board. What you do is you rearrange those letters in your tray looking for words. And you rearrange those letters and you look at the board and you say oh there’s there’s a D out there. Oh. Look I have an O and a G. I can make DOG , but look I can rearrange it and make it say GOD as well. This is an analogy where David Kirsh is saying, you can’t think without the letters, without moving the letters around, and this is what an editor is doing as well. As Jonathan Oppenheim says, “I make connections that I didn’t expect and everything evolves.” (S:) Perfect. (K:) So those are five things that I think an editor literally does. They watch, they sort, they remember, they select, and they compose. And all five of those things might be happening all at once, which makes the editor a real expert, but I don’t know there might be other things happening too. What do you think? (S:) Yeah. Exactly. What do you think? so let us know in the comments section. See if this is all of it, or if there’s more, or if you disagree with some of it. Thank you again Karen! I thought we really took it to a deeper level and I’m looking forward to talking to you on the next one. (K:) Thank you Sven. It is really helpful to me to talk to you. It helps clarify my own thoughts a lot.