NEW YORK — Edit Fest NY took place last month at the Director’s Guild of America offices here. The conference was attended by editors, assistant editors, directors and producers looking to expand their knowledge base as well as the forms of media they work in.
Edit Fest NY kicked off on June 8 with “The Lean Forward Moment” panel. Moderated by editor/author/USC School of Cinematic Arts instructor Norman Hollyn, the two-hour brought together four veteran editors who discussed scenes that inspired them and influenced their craft. Hollyn describes the “lean forward moment” as the point in a film or show where viewers pay closer attention because of the way the story is being told. Each panelist showed five-minute clips from projects that resonated with them, and then recapped the editing techniques employed.
For Milton Ginsberg, ACE, (Fidel, Down and Out in America, Fields of Freedom), it was a scene in the 1961 French film The Last Year at Marienbad, by director Alain Resnais. It’s about a man, who approaches a woman at a hotel and who is convinced they had met the year before. The film’s structure, which is heavily dictated through editorial, makes it tough to discern truth from fiction. Flashbacks and flash forwards also come heavily into play.
“The actors seem very wooden and there’s not much narrative,” said Ginsberg. “I was astonished,” he continues. “I admired the ambition of the film so much. I thought, I would like to write like that…this guy is doing in cinema what I thought could only be done in a novel. The film is about thought process and fantasy, and they are pulling it off. It drew me in. You could see the juxtaposition easily. It’s a film that exists in its editing, fantasy, fact, costuming, staging, rhythmic quality. It added up to magic and mystery for me.” Ginsberg also noted how the film was able to dispense with dialogue and still remain engaging.
Jeffrey Wolf, ACE, (Beautiful Girls, Billy Madison, Cecil B. Demented), referenced the 1962 Roman Polanski film Knife in the Water. The Polish drama centers around a couple on their way to a lake to go sailing, who pick up a hitchhiker. The young man accepts an invitation to sail with them, but tension arises and a key scene details the loss of his prized pocket knife and the chain of events that ensue when it falls into the water.
“It became an important film to me, and I kept coming back to it,” noted Wolf. “The economy, tightness, use of space… using everything that was shot of the movie. The use of tension — it glued me to it.”
Wolf talked about the challenges the filmmaker most likely faced shooting on a small boat, the different angles used to tell the story, as well as the use of motion to add to the drama.
Editor Meg Reticker (NBC’s 30 Rock) found inspiration from a more contemporary film — Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 Reservoir Dogs. She focused on a sequence featuring Mr. Orange, played by Tim Roth, who is trying to pump up his legitimacy to his fellow partners in crime by telling a story. The scene appears approximately two-thirds of the way into the film and makes use of numerous flashbacks, slow motion and sound effects to heighten the storytelling experience.
The film’s editor, Sally Menke, served as an inspiration for Reticker. “The way in which she was able to move through flashbacks and flash forwards... it was the editing that excited me. A lot of flash forwards and flashbacks are written into the script, but how do you move into them? It’s all about pacing.” Reticker also cited the use of 360- and 180-degree camera moves.
Lance Edmands (Tiny Furniture) reflected on the opening scene from the 1973 Nicolas Roeg thriller, Don’t Look Now, starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland as a young married couple working to restore an old church. The couple soon find themselves dealing with the loss of their daughter to a drowning, as well as super natural events. The film relies on flashbacks, flash forwards, color association and juxtaposition.
“I love this sequence,” Edmands said of the open. “[It’s] storytelling through editing.” He pointed to the key scene’s use of zooms, match cuts and symbolism to advance plot points. “[It’s] full of reoccurring things, which I find fascinating and inspirational.”
Don’t Look Now, said Edmands, made use of “alternative strategies for storytelling and broke free of restraints.”