Editing – Why So Negative?

Have you ever flipped through a comic book? (of course you have. marvel makes sure you see a few pages on-screen before the movie begins)

Pages on a comic book are filled with panels of graphics and texts. (i’m not gonna bore you about what’s within the panels) Have you ever thought about the importance of what’s between the panels? (yup, the clean white spaces between each panel; yup, there’s nothing there)

This negative, empty space between panels is called the “gutter”. Our minds land in the gutter (geddit?) to understand the process of events that connect the separate scenes from two consecutive panels. In “Blood in the Gutter”, Scott Mccloud illustrates that “this phenomenon of observing the parts but perceiving the whole has a name. It’s called closure.”

As a reader, it is more fun to be allowed space for my own imagination and commit closure. The artist is also challenged as one decides when to allow readers to do their own “work”. Orchestrating the harmony between negative, empty spaces and the positive, illustrated panels, is similar to the art of editing films. The editor is in charge of deconstructing and reconstructing the scenes, directing when/how to cut and place a “gutter” or to allow the scene to continue.

(i believe this technique, a balancing act between positive and negative spaces, is paramount across all art forms, including architecture, photography and performing arts – especially apparent in Kabuki. this is definitely something I want to delve more deeply into but for now, let’s return to this post.)

During today’s lectorial, Jeremy Bowtell shared some editing advice by Walter Murch (“In the Blink of an Eye”):
1. EMOTION – Does the cut reflect what the editor believes the audience should be feeling at the moment?
2. STORY – Does the cut advance the story?
3. RHYTHM – Does the cut occur at a moment that is rhythmically interesting and “right”?
– Eye-Trace
– 2 Dimensional place
– 3 Dimensional place

Inspired by the short clip from “Casino” (dir. Martin Scorcese), edited by Thelma Schoonmaker, I want to explore:
– The rhythm of cuts in relation to rhythm of character (e.g. excited, wary, etc.) and rhythm of movement (e.g. intimate, danger, etc.)
– How do you shift from one rhythm to another? Does the change happen due to a sudden cut/scene change, or the character’s action, or a sudden-occurring event in a scene?
– How to play with positive and negative spaces? Can a shift happen in a negative space? How?

Then I had the idea that…
Perceiving the film as a whole, the editing is a negative space while the characters’ lines are the positive space. So editing needs to play in harmony with the script as well.