What do editors contribute to a film?

Editors do much more than merely cutting and placing film – editors carefully inspect hours and hours of film to choose the perfect sequence of shots that convey the right emotions and drive the narrative. A major Hollywood production shoots approximately 200 hours of film that the editor has to assemble into a 2-hour film (The Cutting Edge.) Filmmakers in The Cutting Edge discuss how editors contribute to the creative aspects of the film. George Lucas claims that, “Editing is like poetry. It has to do with rhythms, with visual… It’s visual poetry.” On the other hand, Hatch discusses the editor’s contribution from a more technical perspective but still discusses the importance of rhythm in cutting. Hatch emphasizes how the transition to sound transformed the role of the editor and caused editing to be seen as a more technical craft. Both sources concur that editing is rather unrewarding because the editor puts in so much work but is not given as much credit as the director or producer. Hatch states, “Despite the passion for editing often expressed by women editors, all in all it might be perceived as an unrewarding role: the working hours were long and unpredictable, the security of employment minimal and the credit one received was not commensurate with the contribution.”


How have female filmmakers challenged male dominated Hollywood?

Despite the lack of female filmmakers and editors, a few women have challenged the gender barriers in the film industry. Bette Davis, American actress, was the first female president of the Academy, however she resigned after 3 months because they merely wanted her as a figurehead. Her courage to resign from this prestigious position challenged male dominated Hollywood. Davis acted in 123 films over the span of her career. She is often referred to as “The Fifth Warner Brother” which is a fantastic representation of the gender roles she broke through within the film industry. Although quite successful, ultimately Davis’s career was still held back because of her gender. She also seems to be the last actress to hold a powerful position over Hollywood studios. Margaret Booth, a film cutter for MGM studios, also overcame gender barriers in Hollywood. Booth began her career in D.W. Griffith’s studio as a negative cutter and learned to edit by assisting the editors there. At MGM Booth quickly rose to the top. Even after the transition to sound, Booth became the supervising editor for MGM. However, after the retirement of Booth, and the retirement of many more female editors from the 1930s, it became increasingly difficult for females to become editors. The LA times declared “Lady Film Cutters a Vanishing Profession.” These two sources concur that women once held a position of power within Hollywood studios but that is becoming increasingly difficult for women to gain power in Hollywood.


Why do many filmmakers agree that film editing has feminine qualities?

Directors and Editors from The Cutting Edge, Reynolds and Hatch all concur that film editing has feminine qualities and compare film editing to jobs such as sewing, dressmaking and even being a midwife. In, The Cutting Edge various directors and film editors discuss the role of women in film editing. Director Quentin Tarentino mentions that he prefers to work with female editors because he feels a woman would be more nurturing to him throughout the cutting process instead of trying to “win their way” like a man would. (The Cutting Edge.) Walter Murch, editor of Apocolypse Now and The Godfather movies, says, “In the first 20, 25, 30 years of cinema large numbers of editors were women. It was considered to be a woman’s job because it was something like knitting. It was something like tapestry, sewing that you took these pieces of fabric, which is what films are, and you put them together. It was when sound came in that the men began to infiltrate the ranks of the editors because sound was somehow electrical. It was technical. It was no longer knitting (The Cutting Edge.)” As a college professor, Hatch takes a different perspective on the matter in her article, Cutting Women. Hatch talks about how women are better cutters than men because women are “quick and resourceful” and can sit in a cutting room and can visualize themselves as the audience viewing the film for the first time. Reynolds takes a whole new perspective on female film editing as a foreign author writing about French cinema. Reynolds takes the most radical view by saying that, “The editor is the midwife, helping the child to be born to the creative director. There may be a sense of benevolent regard for the child, but the editor cannot claim maternity: the director is the proud father, posing on the front porch. The midwife merely helped to avoid any tragic accidents.” All three sources agree that editing posses many feminine qualities but each person comes from a completely different background and therefore has a new perspective.



Bette Davis. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2015.

The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing [Motion picture on DVD]. (2004).              Distributed by Warner Home Video.

Hatch, K. (2013, September 27). Cutting Women: Margaret Booth and                            Hollywood’s Pioneering Female Film Editors. Retrieved February 28, 2015.

Reynolds, S. (1998). The face on the cutting-room floor: women editors in the               French cinema of the 1930s. Labour History Review (Maney Publishing), 63(1),         66-82.

1 Comment

  1. Nice questions.
    The idea about editing having “feminine qualities” is interesting. What if you compared some films edited by women by those edited by men? What kinds of things do women editors privilege that men don’t?
    Editor as midwife — interesting, since it’s a position only females occupy.

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