Artists as Editors I
Submitted by cw on September 7, 2006 - 14:52
I've been thinking about my last post, and the comments it garnered recently.
One of the threads seemed to be, to quote DAJB, "comics are not like movies." And he's right. Comics and movies are different mediums. That doesn't stop people from making comparisons though. I actually despise it when people blather on about how much better the book was than the movie - but here i'm willing to make an exception. Comics and movies are, at a fundemental level, similar. Books just have words, photography just has pictures. (Yes, there are exceptions - roll with it.) But comics and movies both have pictures and words. To a certain extent, i think that makes them prone to a bit of comparison.
That being said, there are certain things one cannot do in comics - there are no zooms, pans, dollies, crane shots or dolly counter zooms. (At this point i was going to say that you can't do some comics things in a move, then realized that most of what i was going to say had already been done... even my "comic", which relies heavily on the ability to hyperlink could be done on a DVD, and there are choose your own adventure DVDs out already.) That really wasn't my point though. Because we are both juxtaposing words and pictures, comics and movies can learn from each other in ways they might have never thought of before.
Notice it's how one juxtaposes pictures and words that i'm interested in - that's why i'm looking to the movie editors. DAJB cited an important note as to why we should look to editors, and not directors, actors, cameramen, or movies as a whole (not that they don't have wisdom to impart - let's just take it slow, alright?) -
[quote]Take Bendis, one of the generally acknowledged masters of the medium today. In one issue of Sam and Twitch he uses three or four pages to show one of the heroes running across rooftops. No dialogue. No reaction shots. No cuts to other events. You can see how the scene must have played in his mind ... a fast moving 10-minute chase punctuated by dramatic music. You can even see how exciting it would look on a set of story boards with every jump and near miss breathlessly illustrated. But as a comic?[/quote]
Most editors in their right mind would not allow that. To know why, i think i need to address what an editor actually does a bit.
An editor can sort of be looked at as a voice of reason to the director. (Note: some voices are more reasonable than others) I think a lot of people in comics - especially in webcomics, where the writer and the artist are the same person the vast majority of the time - have the director bit down. So let's say that a writer/director comes into the editing room, ready to make his masterpiece. He's spend years writing, months shooting, and now he's watching the rough cut up on the screen.
He hates it. "What happened to shot X? And shot Y?! Shot Z is in the wrong place!" he says to the editor. The editor simply looks at him, and says "X is excess, you don't need it, it should be cut. Y mucks up the pacing, it needs to be cut. Z wasn't in the right spot to have the right emotional impact." The editor cut the director's "babies" - he worked hard on those shots, he thought about them, and when push comes to shove, they just don't work.
Look at Jaws - (i tend to reference jaws when talking about editing because everyone's seen it, and Dede Allen edited it beautifully - she's been editing longer than i've been alive.) when Speilberg showed his cuts to Dede, his shots of the shark were always longer than hers. He spent so long getting that stupid mechainical shark to work that he wanted it in the movie too much. In a snowboarding video i shot last winter, i have a beautiful camera pan / barrel roll - i'm confident i'll never be able to shoot anything like it again - i love the shot, but there's about a 90% chance it'll wind up on the cutting room floor because stylistically it doesn't fit anywhere.
On a grand scale, that's what comics can learn from editing - that it's good to take a step back from the work, look at our babies, and see if we need to cut them. I think there's more to it though - why use a zoom instead of a cut, what alternitives there are to the two shot and the over over, what image juxtaposition does to the reader's perception - that's the part i really wanted to address in this post, but this is getting rather long, so i think i'll get back to that another time. That's when it should really get interesting.
Also: "Cutting your babies" is rather macabre.