Editing in the Can
August 26, 2012 § Leave a comment
I have appeared on several panels over the years and I am always amazed when I hear participants say that young people don’t have any attention span and that you need to “dumb” things down for them and make the images hyper-kinetic. I speak in a lot of schools and that has never been my experience. When I show clips from Gene’s movies, the students are glued to the screen and rarely miss even some of the most subtle details. In Glasgow, for example, a group of film students were amazed, thinking that there were no cuts in the dance numbers. I explained that, in fact, there are cuts, but very few and that whenever possible Gene cut on a turn. We then reran the film and they had a new appreciation for his use of the camera in capturing dance and the way that he “edited in the can,” as he described it.
When I asked him how long it took to edit the American in Paris Ballet, he said, “It was practically edited in the camera, so there wasn’t much editing….two weeks in all. I didn’t shoot the stuff and then give it to an editor to piece together or pick things out….Each section was fitted in where it was supposed to go and the editor had no choice of which takes to use or which angles. They were all fitted together in the shooting.” Gene usually shot with one camera and crafted the numbers so the editing was based upon musical beats. It was his way of controlling the end result. As he said, “If you do one take and it ended on a certain musical beat, it only fits with a certain piece of music. The music was the big guiding light…”
When I received the following note from a woman named Jeannine Gibson yesterday, it confirmed my own experience and made me smile. She gave me permission to share her post, so I thought I would do just that:
“After viewing several seasons of So You Think You Can Dance, and then seeing you on this week’s broadcast when the TOP 10 dancers paid tribute to Gene, I was reminded that my 13 year old daughter had asked to watch An American in Paris a while ago. So, I borrowed the DVD from the library and just last night my three children and I sat down to watch it, them for the very first time. My eight-year-old daughter said frequently through the film, “I just can’t stop smiling Mommy” (nor could I!) and my typically hyper 11-year-old son sat still for the entire length of the movie—quite an accomplishment for the “Wii-Xbox” generation he represents. They laughed again and again and were thoroughly entertained throughout. I was re-mesmerized by Gene Kelly’s flawless execution and they were able to see why no one to this day approaches his level of talent and how many current and past entertainers get their inspiration from him. They asked to see Singin’ in the Rain next. Can’t wait for our follow-up musical movie night! Just wanted you to know how pleased I am that they are being exposed to Gene’s genius and their very positive reaction of their first foray into his body of work.”