The Deceptive Power of the Edit with Jennet Thomas

Year 1 P+ TBM. Go to

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The purpose of this Workshop Challenge is to enhance your understanding of the way editing – the cut- works on the viewer. This is a playful creative challenge for you to make a short video work that explores, and disrupts, the deceptive power of the edit. I want you to experiment with how you can exploit the viewer’s barely conscious desire for continuity, and narrative, when they are watching a video. You can do this through manipulating these expectations about continuity and sense making when an edit happens, in both subtle and obvious ways. An ability to unpack this power persuasion that film ‘grammar’ has over the viewer is one of the fundamental tools of the experimental, artist-film maker. Many of these ideas about how editing works began with Montage Theory in the 1920’s, in Eisenstein’s words; “montage is an idea that arises from the collision of independent shots” wherein “each sequential element is perceived not next to the other, but on top of the other”

You are to work in groups to plan and shoot video footage that will allow you to experiment with at least 4 of these techniques:

  • Experiment with cutting together similar movements– e.g. a spinning object, a spinning person, a falling teapot, a jumping cat. (Example: Michel Gondry,’Deadweight’)
  • Experiments with similar framing of similar shapes– experiment with graphic similarity, a close up of an eye in the centre of a shot, cut to a moon in the centre of the shot or similar buildings framed in similar ways (Timo Katz “Whir”)
  • Narrative continuity – Playing with similar content in the shot- or suggested similar content in the shots (Laure Prouvost – ‘IT, HIT, HEAT’, or Jeff Keen ‘Marvo Movie’) Or playing with commonplace dramatic film ‘grammar‘ and cuts – e.g. a man opens a door, but a woman enters the room. A woman throws a ball to a child, the child catches a bird. (‘At Land’, by Maya Deren, Michel Gondry,’Deadweight)
  • Experiments with ‘reaction shots’g. cut between a reacting face, and what the face ‘sees’ (see the ‘Kuleshov Effect’ – look it up!)
  • Substitution -one thing suddenly disappears or becomes replaced by another different thing but the rest of the shot stays the same (so use a tripod!) This effect can make the viewer very conscious that they are being ‘tricked’ by the editing process, or, if repeated as a progressive smooth sequence, as in model animation, can seem very ‘real’. (Melier’s “The Fat and Lean wrestling match”)
  • Experiments with continuity of similar Sounds rather than images- e.g. a door slamming cuts to an explosion, a baby crying cuts to a siren, and back again, one sound deceptively blends into another (“Om” by John Smith)

You should work as a group on your project and edit using Premiere. Please see your timetable for your camera and editing induction, and the support and progress sessions.

The results may be simply a series of studies; experiments with ‘continuity’ and ‘discontinuity’ or it could develop into a more substantial piece. If you like, you could edit separately but combine all of your edits to produce a collaborative ‘exquisite corpse’ type piece. But of one edited version per group of this project must be ready for presentation at:

  • Your Assessment Crit is on: Friday 3rd NOVEMBER starting 10.00am in the Film and Video Room

you can download this document as a pdf HERE