by Gael Chandler
Michael Wiese Productions, 2021
ISBN # 9781615933280
By Betsy A. McLane
The title Editing for Directors can be read in two ways. 1. This is a book written for editors to
help them understand how to edit for directors, or 2. This is a book written for directors to help
them understand editing. Fortunately, the latter is author Gael Chandler’s objective, since good
editors already know how to work with directors. Writing on her Facebook page Chandler
explains, “At publisher Michael Wiese’s suggestion, I wrote this book to help film directors find
their way through editing from the planning of a film to its shooting and on through to mixing,
delivery, and archiving”. Editors can applaud this, since Editing for Directors covers both picture
and sound, and emphasizes collaboration among everyone involved.
Editing for Directors is primarily aimed at novice directors. Experienced pros know (presumably)
the importance of considering editorial possibilities in every step of pre- production and
production. Directors are expected to arrive at post production knowing what was shot and
recorded, having some specific end results in mind, understanding the technical aspects of the
processes, and being open to feedback and suggestions from the editing teams. If a director is
not comfortable with any of these criteria, then Chandler’s book should be handed to them
when they first see the script.
The ten chapters of Editing for Directors are organized as in a workflow, from 1. “Shooting Right
for Editing” through 10. “Finish and Deliver”. A “Basic Editing Workflow” chart is itself provided
in Chapter Two. This is one of several clear and helpful diagrams, such as “Types of SFX and
Viewer Perception” that names, describes, and offers examples of the most common types of
VFX. The book is abundantly illustrated with tables and charts. One of the most interesting,
“Scene Beats, Sound, and The Wizard of Oz” diagrams the sequence in The Wizard of Oz in
which Dorothy transitions from the black and white of a Kansas tornado to the Technicolor of
Oz’ Munchkin Land. By graphing the visual description of the Beat with its concurrent Sound
and Music, Chandler demonstrates how an audio mix works with a series of well-known images.
Similar examples from familiar films are used throughout, making it easy for readers to grasp
Along with technical explanations and aesthetic examples, Editing for Directors highlights two
areas that are often ignored in the crush to deliver a film: film history and film preservation.
Chapter Three is titled “The Flickers and the Frames: A Short History of Editing”. In it, Chandler
moves quickly from cave paintings to optical toys and scientific experiments in motion, through
Edison and the Nickelodeon, on to the Lumiere Brothers, Soviet montage and the Kuleshov
experiment, then to WWII propaganda, the Movieola, the advent of television, flatbeds, and
the French New Wave, winding up at digital filmmaking. While it deals with technological
change, this chapter also features short introductions to four early filmmakers whose work was
key to creating film language: George Méliès and film magic, Alice Guy Blache and narrative,
Edwin S. Porter and cross-cuts, D.W. Griffith and full-length features. Reading this and knowing
the punch points listed at the end of this chapter are minimum history requirement for anyone
entering an editing room.
Chandler also is a champion of film preservation, which is mentioned a number of times.
Toward the book’s end she offers, “To preserve your work for future audiences and
generations, store your film on the current, most durable format you can afford. Maintain and
revisit the storage format and migrate to better solutions as they develop.” It can be added that
since they are among the very last who access moving image material before release, it may be
an editor who must be the one to care about archiving after everyone else has moved on.
Chandler is the author of two previous books on editing, Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video
(2004) reviewed in Cinemontage July 2005, and Film Editing: Great Cuts Every Filmmaker and
Movie Lover Must Know (2010). For three decades she worked in Hollywood, often for
television, cutting on every available format from film stock to tape to digital, and she is
generous in sharing her expertise. Chandler’s work is accessible, and she has an ability that is
rare in writing about film production. Not only is the information clear, it is presented in
unintimidating ways. She allows the reader to be comfortable with learning, even when the
subject is as complex as digital intermediate technology, or as obscure as old-time cutting room
slang. To help with that, Editing for Directors includes a useful glossary, an up-to-date
bibliography, an index, a filmography of titles included, and significantly, an acknowledgement
of the copyright holders of the films from which frames are printed under the Fair Use Doctrine.
Virtually every page of this book contains an illustration or photograph. Unfortunately, as with
all books published by Michael Wiese Productions, the photographic reproduction is dismal.
Thus, a frame of Akira Kurosawa’s brilliantly colored Anamorphic 1.85:1 aspect ratio
masterwork Ran is presented in a two and one half by one and one quarter blurry, black and
white photograph. It is impossible to link this dinky image to the exquisite words in the Ran
script which is quoted by Chandler, “The music superimposed on these pictures is, like the
Buddha’s heart, measured in beats of profound anguish, the chanting of a melody full of sorrow
that begins like sobbing, and rises gradually as it is repeated, like karmic cycles, then finally
sounds like the wailing of countless Buddhas.” It takes a filmmaker with Kurosawa’s mastery to
transform words on a page into a soundtrack and then match that with unforgettable images to
create a timeless epic.
Editing for Directors is useful for filmmakers who want to examine how others use the
possibilities of editing. For directors who are finding their way through post-production, or for
those who need a reminder of the best ways to think about editing, Chandler’s book is