Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"Intended & Unintended Possibilities": Sight & Sound on Female Film Editors

Barbara McLean, editor of ALL ABOUT EVE, VIVA ZAPATA! & dozens of other films

There's a nice, though too-short, piece by Mark Cousins in the BFI's Sight & Sound magazine this month about the important, but sometimes under-appreciated role that female editors have played in film history. The list of credits is dizzying, from THE WIZARD OF OZ to MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. The article serves as a reminder that women have edited some of the films we love the most. Also, oftentimes in classic Hollywood, the credited editor was just the department head - almost always male, and the others who did the work were... you guessed it.


There's an allusion in the article to one of editor Dede Allen's quotes about "intended and unintended possibilities." I think it deserves to be reprinted in full here.
"When I start cutting a movie, I always cut with mixed feelings. I have a definite intention, a definite starting point: the dramatic function of the scene;. the psychology of the characters, etc. But when I become absorbed in the material, I suddenly see all the possibilities the material contains. The unexpected. Intended and unintended possibilities. I can't help wandering into the material. I milk the material for all the small possibilities I see in it. A look, a smile - after the director has said "cut!". Afterwards I form a general view again. But it is in the collision between the general strategy and the pleasant distractions along the way that constitutes editing as art; the true life of the film."


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