Week 5:  How Movie Crews are Organized/Editing

This week’s PowerPoint is an overview of the role of the editor, and the various techniques they will employ as they assemble the shots – the basic building blocks of a film – into a coherent whole.

This great little instructional video sums up all the different types of cuts and transitions used in film, with good examples.

The scene below, from The Godfather (1972), is a classic example of flawless continuity cutting.  Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) has come to assassinate Sollozzo, a drug dealer.  The film cuts back and forth between them in a perfectly shot series of long shots, medium shots, and closeups, respecting screen direction and keeping us focused.  Then after Michael retrieves the gun hidden in the washroom, the style changes.  Now the tension really rises as we wait for the violent moment we know is coming.

Whatever filmmaking technique you want to know about, Alfred Hitchcock has a good example of it in one of his films!

Here is a classic example of cross-cutting – also known as parallel editing.  In Strangers on a Train (1952), the two main characters of the film meet, accidentally.  Before they do, the film cuts back and forth between them, accentuating their similarities and differences, until the fateful moment, that will start the story rolling.

Later on in Strangers on a Train, Hitchcock uses cross-cutting again to create tension.  Our hero, Guy, must win his tennis match so that he can hurry to stop the bad guy, Bruno, from planting his stolen cigarette lighter as evidence that will implicate him in a murder.  But while he’s on his way to plant the lighter, Bruno drops it down a drain!

As Hitchcock cuts back and forth, the tension rises, so that it feels as though the two men are fighting each other.

Jump cuts were introduced into the language of film by the directors of the french film movement called “La Nouvelle Vague.”  Below, Jean Luc Godard’s first film, A Bout de Souffle (1960) shocked the cinema-going public with its jarring jump cuts in the middle of a dialogue sequence.


Here is an absolutely fascinating, very detailed examination of the clever montage sequence in Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s award-winning film, Parasite (2019).

Interviews with many different professional editors are cut together to produce this video, featuring 10 Lessons for Editing – with good examples.

Below is a very detailed explanation of the 5 variations of Russian Montage, with excellent examples.

One of my all-time favourite montage sequences, from Toy Story 2 (1999), with a great song written by Randy Newman and sung by Canadian folksinger Sarah McLachlan.

Commando (1985) is a B-movie with a big budget, almost comic book style, and Arnold Schwarzenegger has never been in better shape – nor been given so many sardonic “one-liners.”  When he gets ready to take on an entire army by himself, the film does a quick-cut montage sequence that always makes me laugh!

In Rocky 4 (1985), Rocky Balboa must go to Russia to do battle with a gigantic, steroid-pumped super-fighter (played by Swedish actor Dolph Lundgren).  The film includes the inevitable montage sequence with typical 80’s rock song, “Hearts on Fire,” and it shows Rocky – the poor American – training in a remote mountain location, lifting rocks, shovelling snow, and doing other low-tech stuff while the Russian fighter has all the benefits of computerized exercise machinery and a team of scientists helping him out.  And if you believe that could ever happen, I have a bridge to sell you!

Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Pam Brady and are responsible for the tv show South Park.  In their marionette satire, Team America (2004), they include a montage sequence with a song that explains what a montage sequence is!

A close look at the montage sequences in Christopher Nolan’s films.

Here is a very creative sequence from Steven Soderbergh’s 1998 film adaptation of Out of Sight, one of the many crime novels by Elmore Leonard.  Is it montage?  Cross-cutting?  Soderbergh and his clever editor combine a dozen different techniques, jumping forward and backward in time, overlapping dialogue from one scene with images from another, freeze frames, and more.