My film is too long. First cut was over two hours, second cut I had trimmed nine minutes bringing it to 115 minutes. A few members of my "brain trust" (people who work in Hollywood and actually do this for a living) had told me to "cut it down substantially" but no one was giving me good examples of where or how. It was, simply, "cut it."
Easier said than done.
The task in front of me was to slice and dice my film in a way that would get my points across and tell my story as best as possible without, certainly, putting the audience to sleep.
When I got this book in the mail, I was like a kid on Christmas morning. It was exactly what I needed/wanted at this time of trial.
Using classic films (and all films I have seen and have in my collection - thank God she didn't use obscure/little seen films!) Bobbie O'Steen goes FRAME-BY-FRAME through certain scenes and situations; giving the reader a clear understanding of how the film was cut the way it was. How the director and/or editor worked to fix a performance. Whether it was the classic chase in "The French Connection" or the seduction scene in "The Graduate" - using her insight or, on occasion, interviews with directors and editors, she got to the heart of what made the scene work - or usually, how they MADE it work.
Who knew that the initial sex scene in "Body Heat" was actually a mistake, fraught with camera issues and footage that was unusable? Did you realize that a pivotal scene in "Chinatown" actually went on for a number of lines - but it was trimmed not so much for time, but for performance?
Not only does O'Steen's book take you into the cutting room, it takes you into the minds of the film-makers behind the scenes.
Where I felt the book could have been improved, slightly, was to take an approach in the book for that new director who doesn't have a clue (i.e.: me). Sort of a question and answer: "So you want to shoot a seduction scene, first, ask yourself: Who is the seducer, who is the seducee? Etc." I should, of course, glean this from seeing how Mike Nichols directed and Sam O'Steen (Bobbie O'Steen's late husband) filmed and edited the scene in "The Graduate" - but I sometimes like my lessons spelled out very clearly.
Second, and similar, there should have been a chapter, or two, dedicated to the first timer picking up the camera. A quick overview of what "coverage" is, clarifying the basics of shooting. Though she touches a bit on this, I would have liked there to be just a little more.
Bottom line, though, that by using scripts and frame shots from classic films, Bobbie O'Steen takes you inside the world of editing - turning it inside out to show you most everything you need to know about the process. An excellent book for both film-makers and film fans.