Inside "Inside the Cutting Room"

Published on in Industry Announcements / Events

Editors, Sound Designers & VFX Artists Share Their Secrets at MEW’s 6/8 Event

By N. Halpern

On June 18th, the Manhattan Edit Workshop presented “Inside the Cutting Room: Sight, Sound and Story,” a series of panels on post-production techniques. The day’s events included panels that ran the gamut from picture editing, to sound design and visual effects. Here are some highlights from the day’s panels.


In the afternoon panel “Anatomy of a Scene: Documentary and Narrative Editors Deconstruct their Work” film editors Michael Berenbaum, David Tedeschi, Jeffrey Wolf, and David Zieff screened and discussed sequences from documentary and narrative film projects, charting the processes of their respective developments.


In Mr. Wolf’s presentation, he charted the development of the opening sequence of the comedy “A.C.O.D.” which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. He began by showing an early rough assembly of the film’s opening, followed by subsequent versions, in which progressive changes were made: elements of time were compressed, jokes were swapped out for entirely different punch-lines, shaky performances were elided (“improved”), and pieces of exposition were moved. In all editing decisions, the primary directive was always to have this opening sequence set up the forthcoming narrative as efficiently and quickly as possible. An inevitable consequence of this process was the loss of comedic moments that may have been strong in and of themselves but had to be removed to serve the story. Indeed, at the panel’s end, all of the panelists concurred that the need to “kill your darlings” is an inevitable part of any successful edit.


In “MPSE SoundShow NY: ‘Life of Pi’ from Production Audio to Final Mix,” moderated by Maddy Shirazi, key members of the sound team on “Life of Pi” - Eugene Gearty, Phil Stockton, and Sam Mille - discussed the development of the film’s final sound mix, showing scenes “raw,” and then with their final sound mixes. The panelists made the point that the way in which the film was shot presented them with unique challenges and creative opportunities in the sonic realm: In a more typical production, sound design and foley must interface elegantly with pre-existing production sound that has been recorded on set. In this case, however, most of what we see on screen has been computer generated in post (in this respect, the panelists compared the film to a work of animation). As a result the sound team had the opportunity to create much of the film’s sound from the ground up. This process included the creation of field recordings that could represent elements of the film’s oceanic seascape. For the film’s storm sequences for instance, original recordings of waves crashing down upon rocks created a convincing aural analogue for waves crashing down in the middle of the sea.

The day’s final panel was “NY Legends of the ‘70s: Master Editors Discuss Their Work from This Revolutionary Era in American Cinema.” Moderated by Bobbie O’Steen, the panel included Alan Heim (“All That Jazz,” “Network”), Jerry Greenberg (“Kramer vs. Kramer,” Apocalypse Now,” Susan Morse (“Manhattan,” “Hannah and Her Sisters”), and Bill Pankow (“Body Double,” “Carlito’s Way”), who screened clips and discussed their classic works. One recurring theme in the conversation was the importance of apprenticeship and assistant editing; it was in this way that such editors as Susan Morse (assisting Ralph Rosenblum) and Bill Pankow (assisting Jerry Greenberg) truly learned their craft.


One highlight of this panel was Susan Morse’s discussion of her creative contribution to iconic opening montage in Woody Allen’s “Manhattan.” Whereas the sequence was originally meant only to hold music, Ms. Morse suggested adding voice-over; this, she contended would not only add interest, but would also help to establish the main character right off the bat. Even more strikingly, it was her idea to replace an “overture” of Cole Porter songs with the comparably grander choice of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” This is one of the classic opening sequences in cinema, and Ms. Morse played an essential role in its creation.

For more on this event, visit

images courtesy of Mewshop 

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