In filmmaking, editing is one of the hardest things to get right, and one of the easiest things to get wrong. Perhaps more frustratingly so, it’s one of the hardest things to explain how it can be right or wrong. Audiences, in a lot of ways, have been trained not to see editing. Classical Hollywood editing, after all, encouraged “invisible” editing, placing cuts as inconspicuously as possible, and I think to a degree people still expect this. If the editing of a scene is off, people may not notice except on a subconscious level. Even people who’ve studied film can have a hard time paying close attention to the editing of a film the first time they watch it. Being really sensitive to it takes a keen eye and practice. And that’s just observing editing. How to edit a film well, in a way that really resonates, must take a mindbogglingly long amount of time and practice. And if you don’t believe me, just take it from Tony Zhou, the mind behind Youtube film video essay series Every Frame a Painting.
Zhou’s latest video is a deep dive into the world of film editing, what makes it work and not work, and how to spot the difference. The video is geared as much toward fellow editors as it is toward film enthusiasts without hands-on experience, but as per usual it’s an extremely informative watch. Personally, what I find most interesting is the section on scenes where the best cut is no cut at all, those lingering shots that grant a kind of intimate bond with the subject. Especially in Hollywood, it often feels like you just don’t see those kind of shots anymore, those quiet moments when it’s just you and the character and the performance. Not even much dialogue, just their expression and everything that it implies. My biggest takeaway from the video is just how much we need more shots like that. Also that I should really watch In the Mood for Love again.
But with videos like this, there’s a lot to take away. Have a look for yourself below.