IFH 517: Editing for Directors with Gael Chandler

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Television editor and author Gael Chandler is on the hot mic today. 

Most of you may know by now that I started out in post as an editor. Anytime I have another editor on it’s like sailors recalling old battle stories, which are always very entertaining. It is a whole other world when a director says, ‘CUT!’ to the final scene and the elves of film production, EDITORS, get to work. 

While I am curious to hear Geal’s stories from behind the scenes, I would like to focus first on her new book, Editing for Directors: A Guide for Creative Collaboration which was released in August of 2021. 

This is her fifth publication which shares tools and lessons from her expert experience in film production/editing. Gael has been nominated twice for the Cable Emmy award for comedy editing and has taught editing practices and history at Loyola Marymount University and California State Universities at Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Northridge.

Editing for Directors: A Guide for Creative Collaboration focuses on how directors should be working with editors. It guides directors through postproduction, starting with planning for editing during the shoot and ending with the completion of their film. This thorough, well-illustrated book:

Describes the artistic, organizational, and technical skills editors bring to the party; with tools on what directors should look for when hiring an editor and the best ways to work with an editor; It further explains how and why directors should plan for editing before they shoot a frame. An entire chapter is devoted to relating the history of editing and cutting tools and how they have affected the language of cinema and present-day editing while defining and discussing cutting-room terms, practices, and workflows.

Gael filmography credits her editing on wonderful 90s television shows like Max Headroom, Deep Dark Secrets, A Mom for Christmas, Family Matters, and The Very Retail Christmas. Some of her other books include Film Editing: Great Cuts Every Filmmaker and Movie Lover Must Know and Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video.

It’s always fun to hear unique stories from seasoned technicians and the huge technological revolution or evolution their line of work has had to face as well as their adaptation processes.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:19
I like to welcome the show. Gael Chandler. How you doing, Gael?

Gael Chandler 0:22
Good. Good to be here.

Alex Ferrari 0:24
Thank you so much for being on the show. Like we were talking about earlier, anytime I get an editor on. It's like a couple of salty dogs like sailors talking about the olden battle days in, which are always very entertaining. I'm sure you have some amazing stories of what happens when the door closes in the Edit room, which is always and we'll talk a little bit about that about the conversations that happen in there and with the producers and directors, but really wanted to focus this episode on your new book, editing for directors, and focusing on how directors should be working with editors and it's something I've been trying to teach. Every time I every time an editor walked into my suite, I tried to teach them to work with me. But before we jump in, how did you get into the business?

Gael Chandler 1:10
Um, I was a projectionist in Northern California. And I got into the AIA, and when they wouldn't let women in. And then I, it was a mixed local, which meant you could work on movies. And since it was Northern California, a lot of La films came up here. And so I started doing location work as a grip and lighting. And again, I was the only female and I was discouraged. But I did and, and I was also then at Sonoma State University taking communications courses and I took a film history course thinking that was sort of frivolous, but the teacher was fabulous. He ended up founding Tribeca, and being the director there of the festival and and I just really got it it sort of all came together. I had been a box office cashier then projectionist. And so in 79, I left for LA and and somebody said, you, you probably editing would be the right fit for you. And it was,

Alex Ferrari 2:25
yeah, editing is I fell into Editing by not wanting to be a PA. I said, Hey, that sucks. I don't want to wake up at three o'clock in the morning, I'd rather sit in an air conditioned room all day, and maybe get carpal tunnel.

Gael Chandler 2:39
Well, it was funny because one of the location guys said, Why do you want to go to LA and sit in a dark room behind a movie all day? And it wasn't good? It was? It was a fair question. But it was obviously more than that.

Alex Ferrari 2:51
And when did you start you actually started cutting on film?

Gael Chandler 2:55
Yes, 16 and 35. And then I was working at Alan Landsberg productions as an assistant editor on 16. And a we would what I had what we call the sinky pool, we just would think the dailies and then eventually you could be as assisting an editor and they went video, three quarter inch, and we were on lining on two inch. And and any rate it this these technical terms, you know, there were two processes then it's very interesting that online has gone away. And but you know, what eventually of course happened was that it was the film people were doing features the video, people were doing TV, which was what I was in, and they all came together with the digital evolution in the early 90s. And everybody finally was on we're on the same systems and and the systems could talk to film and video and that's what's evolved from there. But basically, it was a huge revolution and I I was lucky that I got in fairly early. When I got in I was I was taught the opposite way. I was taught nonlinear editing first, then online editing then film, so by the time I got to film on a flatbed, I was like, You mean to tell me you want me to take a razor blade?

Alex Ferrari 4:18
Cut this and tape it what are we the Flintstones What is this Barbera? It was completely beyond me, because they already taught me a computer which was so much quicker and online even was online. You know, we're gonna see mX 3600 or Grass Valley or a Sony, a Sony editing system. All those were so much faster. But I did get to cut the was it. That episode of Gunsmoke is it is the episode of Gunsmoke. Everyone, everyone, everyone cut on that right if that's that, that's the one thing everyone

Gael Chandler 4:52
Yeah. And and, you know, I know where my book is about is for directors and there may be some directors That all of this online and splicers and all of that, like, it's before your time and why should you be interested in really what I want to say the takeaway to people that are young, that are directing and editing from all this is that is the word change. Because I personally trained hundreds of professionals and students on digital editing equipment. And the students, you know, they kind of came of age with the computer, but that editors and assistants did not. And, and change is going to happen in your career. And it was very interesting witnessing how people reacted to it, some people were film forever, and I can't cut unless I can feel it in my hands. And that may sound crazy to somebody who's never been on film doesn't want to be on it, we'll never have to be on it. But the point here is change. You really edit and you direct the well let's just talk editing, you edit with your heart and your head. And whatever medium comes down the pike Next, you're gonna jump to that whatever new technology with cameras and all that, as Lucas said, you know, artists 50% technology, and, you know, oil painting, change things, watercolors, you know,

Alex Ferrari 6:32
chart and

Gael Chandler 6:33
technical evolution set out, and I've been talking about, you know, our, our stuff that we happen to live through, you will be living through different ones. And just and just know, you're going to have to learn new software and new words and new terms. Oh, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 6:50
I mean, right now we're talking about things like, you know, you know, people are editing editing on Final Cut and DaVinci and premiere and those kinds of editing software's, and we're still calling it, you know, we're still looking at it from a screen perspective, meaning that it's a two dimensional seat at screen. in our lifetime, you know, there's very good possibility that there could be an editing of a holodeck scene, Ito, and it's all holograms, and there's going to be editing systems to edit that there's going to be things that are beyond our comprehension. Now that this generation who's young now like, Oh, we came up with the avatar, we came up with Final Cut, and now they're like, well, now have you used the holodeck is system, that's insane. It's gonna change, it's gonna change.

Gael Chandler 7:35
Yeah, and the tools are something you want to learn and see what they can do and see what you can do with them. But the principles of how you tell a story and reached an audience are always there. And and they're evolving to know without question,

Alex Ferrari 7:51
so in your opinion, what is the most misunderstood part of the editing process from a director and producers point of view?

Gael Chandler 8:01
Um, I think people think editors just make cuts, it's kind of like thinking a dressmaker, just make stitches, you know, you're making a whole costume, or, you know, in the terms of editing, you really are the person that is telling the story. In the end, whatever you conceived in the script, or the documentary outline, or whatever you shot on location for the documentary, or the scripted piece. Even, you know, I work primarily in sitcoms, stuff would still change in the editing room. And that's where you have to make performances work, and locations work. And as you know, you are a, you're a colorist, or Alex, or you have been and you have to balance the color, and make make the looks work. And I think the tools today, you know, allow you to do so much more. But anyway, to get back to the question, I think the conception that I think the real takeaway is that the editor is the is a storyteller as much as the person who wrote the story and scripted it.

Alex Ferrari 9:12
Yeah, and it's funny, because actors really should give bonuses to the editor at the end of the film, because it's them who cut together their performance. I've been in the Edit room where I've had to cut a performance and you're cutting the best of the best and like literally shaping someone's performance and saving them sometimes, like when they're, their performance is not that good. Maybe you cut away to something else and then come back or cut to reaction all in the in the service of the movie, but also in the service of the performance. And without the editor you know, it's just a bunch of takes and some texts are good, some takes aren't so you got a bad editor involved. They could choose the wrong takes, and make that performance horrible, and I'm sure you know, looking through all that old looking through For a Jew, there's a lot of stuff that you have to kind of cut through just find that, that one second that one frame that makes that scene work.

Gael Chandler 10:09
Yeah, and, and that's what, why my book, the publisher, actually, Michael weezy, came up with the idea to really help directors because they may be, you know, you've gone through as a director, you've gone through, maybe months, maybe years of pre production in planning, and then you've finally gotten to film your baby, and now you're trusting it to this person who you may know or may not know, and are they going to get your film the way you want it and, and make it work in areas that you may have? Know, are problematic. So as a director, you know that where you're finishing is editing. And so you really want to think about that from the beginning. And, and, and, you know, I talked a lot about how, you know, I talked about how you pick an editor, how you, you know, how you want to develop trust? And

Alex Ferrari 11:10
how do you how do you pick an editor? How's it what's a good some good points for a director to pick an editor to collaborate with?

Gael Chandler 11:18
I mean, I think I think you talked to people, you know, you obviously interview people, you, you know, look at their resume, you look at what they've done. And I mean, it's kind of it's a short term marriage, or a good affair, I always like to say, you know, you want somebody that will get your intent as a director, you want to look for that in a person. And you but you also want somebody that hopefully, you will help develop a relationship where you can hear their feedback and hear from them. This isn't working, or, I mean, directors love to be problem solvers, they love to fix performances, I mean, I've been kissed in editing rooms, because, you know, by directors, because they were like, Oh, my God, I was so worried about the scene. And we hadn't talked about it. And you know, and you love it, when you can make something work. And and you, you know, the other thing I wanted to say was, the the editor is really receiving your raw material, no matter, it's really, it's a blueprint until it gets turned into something in the editing room. And it's what the audience is going to see. They don't care if you spent 10 days working in the snow. You know, sledging through tunnels to get a shot of the shot doesn't advance the story, or say what your film is about or do something, it's not just a gorgeous shot, or, you know, or a hard, a hard earned shot, the editor is very objective. The editor is, you know, detached from the set, most of the time, and a lot enters like to go to the set, a lot of us don't, because we want to keep that objective eye. And so I would say all of that is what you're looking for an editor.

Alex Ferrari 13:09
Now, how does the director shoot for the cut?

Gael Chandler 13:14
how an editor? I mean, I've been a director. Yeah, how a director would shoot for the cut is to first of all, well, not First of all, a major thing would be to think about sound people don't think about sound. And you know, poor sound can harm you more than poor picture, really, people can't understand stuff. You know, go and listen to locations, think about how you want your movie to sound. The other things are, you know, work on screen direction, don't cross the line. Or if you do cross the line, understand what it is and why you're crossing it. Um, Maintain eye lines. If Alex is looking down while I'm talking or looking at the ceiling, the audience might think he's bored with me, or doesn't like me, or is this interested? In if we're looking right eye to eye, you know, we're connecting. We may be fighting we may be whatever. But um, you know, eye lines are very important to maintain when you're doing drama. That's an another thing that you need to think about.

Alex Ferrari 14:31
Yeah, I mean, and also just those, I think the biggest piece of advice I always give young directors is cutaways to shoot cutaways. For God's sakes, shoot cutaways just shoot like Robert Rodriguez with El Mariachi. He just shoot the dog. And anytime he got in trouble, he just cut to the dog or he cut to a turtle or we cut to a vase or, you know, obviously if you can choose cutaways that mean something even better, but just safe The shoot cutaway, a hand hands moving, you know, reactions, hair flipping, those little things are what we love as editors, because then you can really sculpt the scene. Because if you've got to stay with that performance and you have nowhere to go, I'm sure you've run into that wall, you're just like, oh god, I need just something that cutaway to

Gael Chandler 15:22
thank you for bringing that up. That's another major thing that you want to think about as a director, when you're shooting, um, you know, coverage, if you have a scene that's not working and you don't have any where to go, then you're stuck with a boring bit in a scene, unless you can cut away to something. And, you know, cutaways can be really interesting, you know, a treasure map, people want to see what, what everybody's talking about a close up of that, you know, and I always say, a close up of Meryl Streep's pace is worth 1000 lines of dialogue. Um, you know, film is a very, you know, faces say a lot. Um, but get those close ups Get, get those over the shoulders, get different angles and shots, because it gives you more options in the cutting room.

Alex Ferrari 16:14
Yeah, I was in the cutting room once. And we had the scene that it was just long. And it was like an emotional breakdown. But it was just so long. And it was we'd like this cut that like, we wanted to cut two ticks together. And we could actually like, Oh, my God, we didn't shoot any cutaways. And the camera was in the room of the Edit room, and the dog of the director was in the room. So we just put the dog on the couch, I threw a light up, I lit it, and she shot it with the camera. That was the same camera she shot the movie with. And then we literally just took the card out, inserted it I'm like, okay, we're good, though. Can you imagine that in the early days?

Gael Chandler 16:54
Well, it I was on a show where a little boy goes to a construction site with his friends and they're playing around. And they, they somehow get one of the big machines going and it's going downhill. And you know, it's very exciting and upsetting and all that. And of course, he lives and he's fine. But what and they shot like 15 angles, and this was a half hour sitcom. So this was a big scene. And it was very unusual in a single camera. So it was unusual to get that many angles. And what they didn't shoot was the boy, they didn't shoot close up of the boy. And the editor just said, You, we need this, we got to have this. And I was very lucky to work with a very famous editor who actually couldn't understand the system. So I ended up having to operate it for him and anticipate where it was going to go in this scene in many other scenes. So it really advanced my editing. But at any rate, the director said I can't do that we're off the location, we're back, you know, on the studio, and he's the director, the editors said put them in a chair. So they literally took you know, a set chair and put the kid in and raised them up and and shot him and it made all the difference in the scene.

Alex Ferrari 18:16
Yeah, it's it's, it's, it's pretty remarkable what you you can get away with today's.

Gael Chandler 18:23
Yeah, I mean, you know, puing your, your characters and people's reactions is cueing your audience on how to feel it's really important.

Alex Ferrari 18:31
Yeah, I mean, it's something as simple as a glass being put on the on the table, things like that, those little things that when you're in the heat of battle, it's hard to think about and that's something as directors, we're in the middle of, you know, 1000 things are coming at us. And we're like, Okay, everyone, stop, I need a shot of the glass. And like that's a hard like, you got to be as a director, you got to be comfortable with yourself. Like, we're getting into ot or we're about to hit lunch. I'm like, Guys, I need the glass hitting the table. And at the moment people are like this, this prima donna like, but it that one little move saves the scene.

Gael Chandler 19:09
Well, and, and you know that the B roll is is just as important. David Watkins famous and photographer who got the Academy Award for out of Africa, in his accent, and I put this in the book actually, because it always stuck with me and it never fit in any other book that I wrote. But this one it did because he he was so complimented on out of Africa because the shots of the animals and you know, they did stuff from literally from helicopters, they didn't have drones, and that's it. And, you know, they're gorgeous. And so people would come up to and say, Oh, he you know, he did such a great job and he said, that was second unit that was B roll. And then they can Oh, you know, he shot the principles he shot Redford and st you know, and so, you think about of Africa without those shots and it's a different movie. No, absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 20:03
I, I love that example that Hitchcock. I saw, I saw a documentary with him once about the editing process. And he's like, this is how powerful editing is he goes, let's say I shoot a shot of me. Then the next shot we shoot show is a baby playing. And then you see cut back to me smiling. Now, the emotion that you that the audience gets is like, Oh, isn't that cute? Now all you could do is replace them center shot instead of a baby, a beautiful woman in a bikini, a young woman in a bikini, same thing all of a sudden, oh, what a creep. That is the power of editing. And that's something directors really need to understand. If you really, I mean, you should absolutely if you're a director, study Hitchcock. I mean, it's math every one of his films. There's a masterclass in editing. But it's so so powerful a cut a shot an angle, can change the entire perception of the scene. Do you agree? Yes. And have you heard of the cooler shop? In fact? The Which one? Oh, yes. Yes. From? Oh, God. Yeah. Yeah. From the Russian from the one. That's the famous picture of the guy going crazy. Hold the frame. Yes. Right. And Hitchcock, we didn't come up with it. It was him actually, if I'm not mistaken. Yeah.

Gael Chandler 21:22
And, you know, one of the things that I did in this book is it's very practical, you know, from pre planning and direct and editing, as editors are being brought in more with pre planning, especially a pre Pro, with previous with animation editors. I really cover that what a director needs to think about from you know, pre production through archiving, you want your film to last, you want to think about archiving and more wrote, you know, how can you reach future audiences? How can you create revenue streams, even though you know, you're just lucky if you're doing a doc low budget or anything low budget, you know, you're just thinking about getting the movie may not alone archive, and but I go through that. But at any rate, one of the chapters that is one of the chapters I love the most, in the longest is, on the other side, broke up a little more, is on the history of editing. And I put that in there because I want people to understand that editing really is the language of the film, and editing you really like no other art, you see how people think and how they feel from second to second in a flash cut of three frames or a long dissolve it you play with time you play with people's emotions the way no other medium, I think really does. And so part of that chapter I I talk about the Russians, and their they had their revolution. And so all the filmmakers were tasked with, you know, teaching the proletariat what was what the rules of communism have. So they started the first film school and mascot, which still goes on to today. And they did they had short dance, they didn't have film so they they didn't couldn't do long masters like Americans could and they chopped up a Citizen Kane, they chopped up a lot of they looked at a lot. And that sense of Cain hadn't been shot and but they looked at a lot of American films. And one of them cool shot, I forget his first name. They had some leftover footage from a White Russian actor who was very well known. And he had left the country with the revolution. And so they took, I'm afraid a few, some frames of him and intercut them with a young girl picking a flower. And people thought he was smiling. And then they cut to him again. And they well, but first I cut to the girl, then they cut to him, people thought he was smiling. Then they cut to a woman in a coffin, a young child and a cough. And they then they cut to him, people thought he was sad. Then they cut to a woman on a chaise lounge and they thought he was amorous. And it was the same shot each time. And so the whole This is relates to what you said about Hitchcock, and the smiling and the creepiness it you know, is that in the Russian theory, but you can use whatever you work, you want it they juxtapose Shots, shots affect each other, and people take meaning out of shots that were shot at different times, different days, different places, etc. Humans just our brains want to do that.

Alex Ferrari 24:45
And it's so funny because sometimes I'll see a movie because there's so much content being created today. Watch a movie that's you know, off off brand, let's say it's not a big movie, you know, it's an independent or, or something along those lines and or it has to star in it and, and I watched it and and then the director and the editor make a mistake. And you see like, Oh, they cut to that and like that's not the meaning like, wait a minute that feels weird. That person shouldn't be feeling the way they are. And it's, and it's obviously a mistake. It's not like, you know, the woman shouldn't be feeling, you know, jilted, she should be fielding something else. And it was a look, it's a, it was an energy and because it were the way it was juxtaposed to what they were cutting, it just feel it just you just get taken out of the of the of the piece. It's pretty, it's pretty powerful stuff. And Hitchcock again talked about it's so so so much where he wanted to like literally play the audience's emotions on a piano, eventually, to get to that point, which he pretty closely did with his editing. But it's pretty powerful. And to go down the Hitchcock rabbit hole, just for a minute, arguably one of the greatest, most talked about scene edited scenes ever is the shower scene, they did a whole documentary, just a shot are seen. As an editor looking at that, can you kind of talk a little bit about that? So directors listening, can understand that they've never seen it? Or they've heard about or maybe they watched it, what value it would be to go back to what he did and what the editor did, in that. That what is it? forgot how many frames it is, but how many seconds is 48 seconds or 56 seconds? Or whatever it is? how powerful that was?

Gael Chandler 26:28
Yeah, I've read a lot of Hitchcock, and I admire him and a lot of ways to and I highly recommend Truffaut on Yes.

Alex Ferrari 26:36
What a great book and movie.

Gael Chandler 26:39
it you know, as a director, you know, truphone, the French loved Hitchcock and Truffaut interviewed him, and they went through every movie. And Truffaut really asked him a lot of questions. And it's really, you know, and I do quote, from Hitchcock, in the book, you know, about the birds and, and, and, and part of how we conceive the birds musically and, and, and their thoughts and now they're this and now they're that, but the shower scene, I I honestly forget now how many cuts and how short it is. But, you know, it was flash cuts and and you you saw a woman being chopped up and attacked and it was, you know, we it's stuck with everybody who's ever seen it and it still works and amuse. It's the music, the music. And he always got Bernard Herman to to compose his film. And I mean, vertigo, I talked about vertigo in the book, actually, I didn't get into psycho so much, but in vertigo, he has very, he has like, carousel music. Everything's twirling and the beginning the vertical, I put in the shots, Thurman doll is coming out of people's eyes. So everything is very circular. And it supports his, you know, the idea of vertigo. But yeah, the shaft we're seeing is we're seeing you know, Buster Keaton's train chase in general, is incredible. And, you know, but there are a lot of fantastic. I mean, I mean, the fugitive, I remember with Harrison Ford, you know, with the editors guild that we screen that that they had a screening in the 80s. And people just, this was an Indian industry audience and people just stood up and clapped.

Alex Ferrari 28:32
Right if you can break through the Indian industry audience you know, you've got something now I remember watching the fugitive as well. It's remarkable then you go by the way that just just to finish off on Hitchcock that shower scene, what's so brilliant about it for me is you never see the knife go in. You never see the knife touch her skin ever because it wasn't allowed at the time I think or something his koco was going around the the sensors but that's the brilliant part but your mind connected at all because of the cuts in the music that you were like this woman is But you just said this woman was getting chopped up. She really was. There's no there's no there's no graphic hit of it. Yes, there's blood there's flashes there's this and that the eyes and the motion, but there's no actual, you know, skin knife penetration in the scene, which is that's the brilliant part about one of the many brilliant parts about that sequence. But the one thing you were saying about action sequences is now I think sometimes you go the other direction like there was a scene and I think taken two or taken three one of those that had Liam Neeson running and no Liam is not 21 and he's running he's jumping affect offense. They counted how many cuts just from him jumping offense was like 15 cuts. And you're like you're basically cutting making you're forcing the action by the head. The Edit is kind of keeping pace because they actually see a 60 year old man, jump offense. not that exciting. But with the music and the cut, but it was just so much you just you don't let anything sit. And sometimes the most powerful cut is not cutting, is that fair?

Gael Chandler 30:18
Yes, in some times the most powerful kind of silent. Like after you've had a big action scene, it's like music, you can have staccato and go cut, cut, cut. And then, you know, let's just the obvious war is a very obvious example, after the battle, and then you just need, you know, the dead people on the battlefield or people collecting themselves, the audience to collect themselves. It's editing is very rhythmic. And I think you know, you and your editor, as a director, you want to pick somebody that that's going to go on the journey with you. Because you may have directed a lot of pictures, or you may be new. But each thing you do is, you know, is going to be new, even if it's part of a series or it's a routine show, you're going to bring what you bring to it, your eyes and your talent. And you just in editing, the app continues.

Alex Ferrari 31:16
The The one thing I've always had a problem with, with younger directors or just inexperienced directors is when they walk in the suite, they really truly don't understand the responsibilities of an editor. And a lot of times, you know, I always I always I go there, there's two camps of editors, there's creative editors who have I've dealt with, and there's online editors, and not online in the traditional sense. But the online is in like putting in the final visual effects, cleaning things up, tightening up technically getting ready for the export that stuff because a lot of creative directors I've worked with are clueless when it comes to any of that stuff. They're there just for the creative. And if you go Can you insert a vo effects like I need an assistant for that? I can't, that's not what I do. Can you talk a little bit about what the responsibility of an editor is, traditionally, and what so many editors are nowadays, like myself, when someone would come into and I would edit a feature, I would edit the feature, I will put in the visual effects, I would attempt visual effects, I would do a color grade, I would prep it for final I would prep it for a sound, I became a post supervisor at that point. Essentially, I was doing everything I was doing creative, and I was doing online. So there are those kind of hybrid versions. But traditionally, what are the responsibilities of a creative editor? Let's say?

Gael Chandler 32:36
I think traditionally, the responsibility is, as I've mentioned, to tell the story, and to see what characters work, what characters possibly need to be dropped or cut down or shifted what scenes need to be shifted? how, you know, how does the the conception hold up in the editing room and, and a lot of directors feel for the first cut, that they need to represent you the director's vision, they they you know, you need to see it the way you thought it was going to work. And then the two of you can go together and tinker with that or drastically change it or do whatever you're going to do. You know, when when editing started, in modern times of say, the 50s you were editing on film, and you had one or two tracks in one picture. Now, with with the system, you know Alex and other people, that editor work that editors work on, there are an infinite amount of tracks, you can have tracks within tracks within tracks, and not just audio tracks, but video tracks. So you can do you know very simple effects fades and dissolves and you can do green screen, you can do very complex video effects. Now those really complex ones, you're probably not going to do on the system, because they're going to take up too many system resources. And you're going to drop them in and you know, on a big Video Effects show you're going to have a video effects editor and a whole department and, you know, probably a post House of some kind behind you. So you know, in answer to your question, the editor can be simply the you know, the storyteller making things work, or they can be you know, they can be doing everything like you did Alex they can be doing all the effects, they can be doing the video, you know, all the sound they can mix right on the system. You can put in Scratch track right on the system, which is really handy when you're working along and seeing if things are working and maybe you have to add a video that you didn't anticipate or you have one and you want to see how it lays up against your picture. So there's no real answer to that any

Alex Ferrari 34:54
any more before would be just the one thing it

Gael Chandler 34:57
just depends on your budget and You know, is it a commercial? Is it a feature? Is it a doc is that you know,

Alex Ferrari 35:05
but I do think that the director should be very clear with the editor on what their capabilities are, because they might walk in thinking that they can online the whole thing. And they're like, I really can't. And the editor should be honest, too. Like, I'm a creative editor, I maybe be able to get you a little bit closer to the finish line, but I can't do everything that you need me to do. So that did both parties really need to be clear about that. Which is something early on that that wasn't even a question, who's the editor just cut and then someone else the online editor would take over and, and take it there was there was more division of duties, where now it's just all, everybody, even the director like myself, I direct and I edit. So I come in, and I'll do my own post, and I'll do my own color, and I'll own everything.

Gael Chandler 35:51
Yeah, I mean, you know, where you're starting. And that's why, you know, I wrote this book, you you want to know where you're finishing? Who's doing what? And? Yes.

Alex Ferrari 36:03
Now, can you talk a little bit about what the assemble cut is, because the difference between the assemble cut, and the my definition, at least, maybe yours is different, but the assemble cut, then there's the the first draft of the first cut, basically, the first draft cut, then the final cut, and then that's it. But the assemble, cut, my definition of the assemble, cut is always like, you literally look at the script. And whatever scene is there, you just cut it together, and you put it all there, regardless if it works or not, is that an assemble cut in your definition as well.

Gael Chandler 36:38
And not, you know, to me, a first cut is where you're putting everything together as scripted as outlined, an assembly to me is more, you're sort of putting the shots together within a scene. And it you know, it all depends on whether you're fine cutting or rough cutting, I mean, a lot of people like to know, some editors work by, you know, they sort of get things going and get things in order, and then they go back and fine tune it. And to me, that would be more of an assembly sort of know the shots you're going to use and you put them together. Others of us and I find cut from the beginning, I cannot I mean, either I can't find enough, I want my timing from the beginning. You know, you will, you will find, you know, if you're a director and you're sitting with an editor cut and you're working together, that you Your mind is always going five shots ahead and and sort of a little behind where did I come from? And where am I going? And well, if we go here, then this is going to be we're going to have to do this and if we you know, you know, it's very intense, it's it, you know, it really uses you come out and you're kind of exhausted. If you haven't been editing for a while, it's a very intense, you know, seeing what works and then and then it is like, like music you want to drop back you want to go away for an hour or a day or a night an evening and then come back and see you know, what was that thing we've got really high on yesterday that really was like the greatest thing we ever did or does that hold up overnight? It's a lot you want you want it in editing you you may there may be a lot of trial and error and and and and that's just the nature of the game.

Alex Ferrari 38:42
I think that I wanted to kind of touch on something you just said as the because sometimes in the Edit room you you are in this delusion, this 12 hour oh my god we just cut the greatest scene of all time and then you go home you sleep on it you come in, you're watching like yeah, that doesn't work what happened you really need to give yourself that pace and not only with a scene or a cut, but with the film you need to go away from it for a while because once you're in it for so long, you lose perspective and sometimes you do you need to just put it you know turn off the computer for a week walk away do something else then come back to it's got like writers, writers who are writing and writing and writing at a certain point they just got to stop when they're done. Put it away for a few weeks come back and reread it to see if it's truly the genius that they thought it was in the first place.

Gael Chandler 39:31
Yeah, you know it because I it's a great analogy because you know when I've done a lot of script writing also and you know when you write you want to get the the script the best that you can and then in the same as editing you want to get the cut as best you can. And then at a certain point you will you need feedback. I mean you are creating this for an audience and so you need to get people you know, a loyal focus group. Have some kind to come in and say, I don't get this main character or I don't like that scene or that's really hard. And and then he then you decide what you're going to do from there.

Alex Ferrari 40:13
Fair enough. Fair enough. Now, can we talk about the holy place that is the final cut or locked cut? The I call it holy, it's sacred. Because as an editor, when the cut is locked, many directors and producers think that's fluid. No, it's locked. If it's locked, that means that audio is working on it, visual effects are working on it. Score is working on it, if you change a frame, the whole thing comes crashing down, can you just talk a little bit about that?

Gael Chandler 40:48
Yeah, I know, I totally get your point, when you lock a cut, it means you're not going to change another picture frame. And so that it will not get shorter by your frame, it will not get longer by a frame, it will stay exactly the same length. And this is incredibly critical for the the sound editors. Because if you you know, on a feature, you're going to have, you know, Foley, you're going to have effects. And then you're gonna have dialogue editors, and they are all dependent on this cut. And if you change it by one frame, their timing and your sound is off, the music doesn't start right that, you know, and so then the same goes for music. So they do what's called conformed to the to the latest, the the locked cut. And that's what you mix to, you don't want to be having the bombs fall and you've taken out half a scene in oops,

Alex Ferrari 41:49
oh four frame or frame, one frame will knock the entire thing out of whack.

Gael Chandler 41:54
So it's not efficient of the studio's time, or money. And your job is going to be on the line if you if you unlock the cut, and, you know, past a, you know past time when when people are really mixing. Having said that sound editors call it becomes it becomes unlocked or it slips a little. And you kind of can get away with certain things and everyone knows it. Like if there was a cut between Alex and me. And let's say it was a dissolve. And it was 10 frames long. But let's say we want to wait it so we see more of Alex now, instead of me, there's still gonna be 10 frames, but we're gonna we can Yeah, we you can slip you can slip a little. But again, you know, if you've got something that has very precise timing, and you've got all these people that you're paying, you're going to be paying them more and it is going to take longer. If you are frame I don't want to use the word

Alex Ferrari 43:03
No, I know the word your I know exactly the word you're gonna say frame frame effing my drift here.

Gael Chandler 43:11
Yes, till the till the last minute. And you know, the truth is with today's digital editing systems, people change stuff after they've been on air Lucas went back and changed All Star Wars and re colored them and, and redid some of the effects. So nothing really is fixed anymore. I mean, I'm being honest here. I mean, in terms of getting your movie made and staying employed, you want to stick with the lock, cut and hit the deadline. And all that. But the truth is stuck. You know, people do go back into shows. And if it's your movie, you can do what you want till the cows come home if you're paying the bills, but just know that it's going to it's going to cost you time and money and and you may lose some people along the way because they get other jobs or they get too frustrated. The frustration is a very good

Alex Ferrari 44:05
word to use. And since you were up north in Northern California, you must have heard of the lore of Star Wars, the first Star Wars in Juba, Georgia that the first cut of Star Wars was an absolute dismal mess and it was horrible and because the thing the studio stuck in with an editor that he didn't want and the first cut looked horrible. And then he had to go in with his wife and I forgot who the Academy Award editor Thank you went in and some of those two wasn't there was two there was there was Marcia Lucas and Paul and I honestly forget the third and but there was but there was another one and then everybody went back in and and made it into what we are today but it was completely it was destroyed and then saved in the cut same footage, same footage, but just put together differently. And that's the power and look what look at the power of the editor did for for that film and all the things have come afterwards.

Gael Chandler 45:09
Yeah, I mean, Paul Hirsch actually wrote a book about his career.

Alex Ferrari 45:13
Yeah, I saw I saw that one recently. Yeah.

Gael Chandler 45:15
Yeah. And I actually put it in the book. So I do talk about the Star Wars and, and how they introduce Luke at a at a different point and how they cut stuff down and, and and just how, exactly how they crafted it and rearrange the scene with Obi Wan Kenobi and Princess Leia and, and Luke, where Luke says, No, I can't help you and leaves and he appeared callous in the first cut. And they just rearrange things. And so that's in the book actually to,

Alex Ferrari 45:51
to analyze, to analyze something like that, because that's a great learning tool of like, you know, Luke, if you cut them at the wrong time, it looks callous the other time It looks a row it's editing is powerful stuff, guys, it's extremely powerful stuff is is a weapon, in the creative battle that can be wielded. And you got to be very careful with it.

Gael Chandler 46:14
And just, you know, just know that the great Lucas, you know, made mistakes, I mean, everybody all the greats have, they've done all kinds of stuff. And and and, and you're gonna learn and and do your great make your great imprint. And the faster you The faster you make these mistakes, the faster you learn, so you have to make as many mistakes as fast as possible and continue making them throughout your career because

Alex Ferrari 46:37
everyone does. There's very few directors who have a perfect filmography. Very few, if any, that have an absolute perfect, you know, some artists are, it's hard to hit the home run and what is a home run? What's the definition of a home run and in art, you know? Now I want to ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests. I normally ask what's your three of your favorite films of all time, but I'd love to ask you what are the three of the best edited films of all time, in your opinion that the editing really took a kind of a front seat?

Gael Chandler 47:12
Well, Raging Bull is is one that come to a lot of people's mind. And to be honest, before I wrote this book, I never paid attention to sorry about the phone. So Oh, just the violent nature of the relationship. And I and the woman being brutalized when it came out in the 80s. I, I wanted no part of the film. But in writing the history chapter, I actually ended up ended up reading and writing a lot about and researching a lot about the film. And I think I'm there as an example of that film school maker and Marty Scorsese Scorsese, you know, an editor, Director pair that have, you know, that are bonded for life, and that I've done incredible stuff since Woodstock when he was an assistant director, and she won the Academy Award for a documentary, which is really unusual for Best Film, anyway. So I would definitely say Raging Bull, because it just takes things to a different level. And it was planned a lot of those slow mo shots and the sweat flying across. I mean, it's, and I would not only look at it, I would read about it, because that will help your directing and you're thinking about editing. For that, definitely one

Alex Ferrari 48:40
of the couple of things you can think of or just two of your other favorite films that you just love watching. Um,

Gael Chandler 48:48
you know, there was a movie that came out in the 70s when I was a projection it was it was called from noon till three. And it was jus Ireland and Charles. What was the action star her husband? Charles Bronson. Yeah, Charles Bronson. And I would like to see it again because you just don't know how things hold up. It was basically the story and that that he's, he's comes into town and they have a noon to three they have a romance. And then he's arrested and goes to prison. And she's like, a stereotypical, like a schoolmarm or something. So this was like the greatest, you know, one of the the big thing that happened in her life. So the whole town becomes about this robbery and they recreate him and her and all of them. And you know, they romanticize the romance. And then he comes back from prison. And he wasn't really a robber. He was a snake oil salesman. I think that got caught up and she sees him and it's just Like, there's nothing there. It's like she has gone into the fantasy. So I guess it wasn't the editing in that one so much is just the story. And then the other my other favorite film is is prime of Miss Jean Brodie original and I think that I realized is it's because it's the whole teacher student relationship, and that we all have teachers in our lives that eventually we outgrow. And, and I've watched that film since I was in my 20s. And my views of that have really changed. So, I don't know those. The one really spoke more to editing in his famous for it, but the other two are just some of my, you know, film segments.

Alex Ferrari 50:51
Hey, that's a good answer. And where can people find your books and in the work that you do?

Gael Chandler 50:58
Um, my books are on Amazon, you can just put my name in ga e, l. and Chandler and they're also available from my ever loving film publisher Michael weezy. productions style.

Alex Ferrari 51:12
Fair. Good. Gail, thank you so much for being on the show. I it was it was fun talking shop with another editor and I appreciate all the work you're doing and helping educate directors and editors around the world. So I appreciate you. Thank you so much. Thank you.

LINKS

  • Gael Chandler – IMDB
  • Editing for Directors: A Guide for Creative Collaboration: Amazon

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