Day 4: Teaching Music Montage and Parallel Action With Incubate

Editing Incubate EDU

The project for day four was Incubate. This commercial is for a real iPhone app that lets you leave messages for people up to thirty years into the future.

Incubate features a chase scene between a group of zombie women and a man who has the last can of water on earth. What I love about this commercial is the parallel action during the chase. Most of the commercial was filmed MOS. Having no production sound places more emphasis on the story that the b-roll and music tell since they must guide the editor.

I consider music montage and parallel action to be the toughest type of editing. This jelly fish format has little in the way of a preconceived story spine to cut to, meaning that the editor has no script or interviews to use as a starting point. Students need to come up with story in their head and express it by picking shots that otherwise might have nothing to do with each other.

1+1 = 3! Parallel Action Editing

Montages do not happen in real time / real space in a film by their very definition. Montages always involve either the shortening or extending of time. This means that we often have many scenes that need to be mashed up together.

When teaching how to edit montages I will show the class this simple math problem; 1 + 1 = 3. How can this be? When you boil it down, editing any two shots together will give you a third meaning called the implied meaning. The implied meaning is the emotional effect that juxtaposing two shots creates. This is known as the Kuleshov effect.

The idea of the Kuleshov effect can be broadened when intercutting two scenes instead of just two shots. Most films have at least one instance of intercut scenes. Some famous examples of parallel action include, the chase home in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the ending in The Godfather when Michael Corleone is baptized, and of course Wayne’s World’s Ballroom Blitz.

One example I showed the class in Hawaii was from the film Austin Powers. By adding one cut away to Doctor Evil the editor was able to add a third meaning; that Austin was trying to turn his golf cart around for a long time.

Parallel action is important in documentary filmmaking too. For example by intercutting multiple interviews an editor can create a sort of echo effect. If two people had the same observation of an event the viewer is more likely to believe that those observations were true. If two interviewees have contrasting experiences those contrasts will be more visible to an audience. In Incubate we can edit the zombie women driving fast and confidently, while the man is stumbling and falling. We can contrast that they are driving and he is walking. Or we can make the zombies and the man similar by showing them both thirsty. Now everyone in this planet will be thirsty. Any story the student thinks up is ok with me as long as they think one up and try to create it on the screen.

Often students will have a problem cutting MOS clips short enough. This is when I give them my second fun diagram. It goes like this:

Editing is easy. Just ….

  • Cut in all the good stuff.
  • Only the good stuff.
  • Highlight the good stuff.

We will review a shot from the dailies and talk about what the good part of that shot is. Then I will ask them how they can enhance it. Often times the answer is with music, a subtle zoom effect, or by adding an effect filter of some kind.

Finally, I review their cuts. I have the students describe their story to me out loud before they show the class their cut. We watch their cut all the way through together without stopping. Then I go back over each shot and ask them how this shot helps tell their story.

Ok phew! - that’s the end of my four day outline for teaching editing to newer editors.

I have long considered teaching editing to be the same as teaching literacy. The ideas of how to organize video clips on a timeline is not much different from how to organize words in a sentence. Kids who are 12 years old are more than capable of writing a five paragraph essay. Teaching editing literacy is becoming more and more important to our students.

Teaching editing doesn't have to be all Eisenstein and Citizen Kane. It can be fun and modern too. This is one of the reasons that editing with EditStock footage is so important in your classroom. The best compliment I've ever gotten from a student was "I would edit this project for fun on the weekends!" Teachers should inspire and engage their students with modern, professional footage, that represents their career and artistic goals. Teachers should engage their students with EditStock footage.



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