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Rick Stout edits his own productions and those of others.
Below are some of the principles he tries to honor when editing.*

Editing Overview

Another Writing of the Story

Rick Stout is constantly editing, whether he is writing, directing, shooting, or performing post-production work. Editing is, for him, the selecting, limiting, and sequencing of shots in order to tell a story.

Shots must be combined to add something new and interesting, to transition artistically or thoughtfully, and to reduce or enlarge time and space. Ultimately an editor is another storyteller, who explores the film’s theme, develops plots and subplots, and reveals character development. A great editor can create or reduce energy, excitement, and anticipation by use of pacing and shot selections. Films can't continuously build to the eventual climax. Rather, films must sometimes allow characters and audiences to “breath” or catch up. Ultimately it is the writer/director who must envision the film, the shooter who must capture it, and the editor who must give it screen life. The editor must have an innate sense of timing, like a comedian, so that dramatic beats work, time after time--and audience members forget everything else, getting “lost” in the story--including its suspenses, emotions, excitements, and provocations.

Continuity Cutting

Breaking Rules Only On Purpose

An editor is always searching to create structural clarity, and to visually augment human storytelling. To do this, he must honor decades-old filmmaking “grammar.” Such grammar (principles) should only be ignored with intention. Here are a few such principles that relate to continuity:

Avoid jump cuts, or cuts that draw attention (use cutaways or appropriate transition shots instead). Overlap action from one shot to the next, matching movement. Sequence images shot from significantly different camera angles, in a way that simulates the perspectives of a curious, concerned, visually oriented observer who has no spacial constraints. Transition prudently between vastly different lens focal lengths. Allow actors to “leave” frame before cutting. Allow cameras to “start” movement after a shot begins, and to “stop” motion before cutting away. Match spacial relationships, screen positions, and eye-lines from shot to shot. Match lighting, exposure, and color (including white balancing) from shot to shot. Cut between shots that match acting energy, as appropriate. Creatively deviate from these principles, for specific reasons, but only if doing so “works.”

 

Shot Selection & Cutting

Making the Story Interesting & Sensitive to Expectations

Here are more principles related to shot selection and cutting: vary shots between close-ups, mediums, and long shots (without jumping to extremes, unless you have a reason to do so). Introduce a scene with wide lens typically, or use normal or telephoto lenses for reason or effect. When introducing a character, however, give the audience closer shots long enough so that they can remember later what the character looked like. Cut shots together in ways that reduce or extend time, but also sometimes to juxtapose two shots (ideas) that clearly do not belong together.

Motivations to cut from a shot include visual, aural, graphic, or narrative. For example, a clock alarm rings, or a helicopter flies close overhead, or somebody is “realizing” something. These all derive from a film’s story. NOT cutting when the audience expects you to, will either make the film NOT work, or make it work in a more interesting way, by building suspense, etc. An editor must be able to intuitively sense what he or she wants to achieve, and how the audience will react to it.

Dissolves can hide bad shots, but are typically used to denote a passage of time--or some other discontinuity. They traditionally set off dream sequences, or flashbacks. Fading to black sets apart one scene, sequence, or act from another. It is almost always used at the beginning or ending of films.

By honoring these principles, the editor provides a “comfortable” experiences for the audience. By deviating from them artistically, and with intention, the editor may give the audience more profound, moving experiences.