Editing - Explained to the Family
Gerhard Schumm

How do I explain to my parents, siblings, grandparents, nieces anbd nephews, and my friends what I study when studying editing?

If something is difficult to describe - and editing is difficult to describe - the black box method can help at times: you don't even begin to ask what ex- actly happens inside the black box in detail. You just compare the input with the output. You describe things from the outside. You pretend not to know anything from the inside and only describe the transformations between the before and the after.

Take the cutting room as a black box. Actually, it's quite often a bloody dark room with the curtains pulled.

What enters it? Images and sounds enter the cutting room.
What comes out of it? Images come out. Sounds come out.

What has changed? There were images and sounds before... and now there are images and sound? No, before it was footage: images, audio material. And now, after the edit, the images and sounds are a film. So a film must have been created in the cutting room. Yes, it's true: a film is only created in the cutting room. And you hardly dare to say it loudly since it sounds so preposterous: it is only created in there.

Dear granny, dear granddad, dear aunt Frieda, only in the edit and through the edit the filmed bits become a film and I study how to make it happen.

The film direction, the camera, the script, the set, the actors all deliver the raw material. And I explore - whether all by myself or with others - what to detect in this material, what the material contains, and I approach carefully, step by step, the film form which is appropriate for this material.

It's quite obvious now: granny and granddad look bewildered.

Let's therefore forget about the very clever nephew sitting nervously next to them. He would have said immediately that he's very familiar with all matters of film and that he knows from the Internet that an editor only has to line up the scenes according to the script, to cut them and that these cuts will be seen years later in the Director's Cut, and that it would have been best to have left them in in the first place, and...

Let's forget here that the nephew is quite astonished when he hears: a script is a script because you need it for the shooting. If it were a template for the edit it would be called an edit script. Editors read a script. And then they put it aside. Since in the cutting room, a film isn't created by words on paper. It is created by filmed images and sounds.

In the cutting room, the editors write a film with and in the film material. This material script is the edit.

Granny and granddad have fallen asleep. I know. What a pity...