The Value of Editing

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"How do you fit 90 years of fulfilled life in a 25 minutes film? Filmmaking is mostly about omitting"

Filmmaking is not about showing as much as you can – it’s mostly about omitting. This thought guides the process of filmmaking from the point, where research and the collection of photographic and video material are replaced by writing the treatment and script. The latest at this point, a film like the portrait of Hermann Huber “The Value of Time” turns into a project with heart and soul, and an inner fight begins, about which happenings need to be written down, be filmed and find their place in the edit.

Of course, such a filled and complex life as the one of 90-year-old Hermann Huber cannot be summarized completely. That probably wouldn’t even be possible in a written biography. There will always be gaps that need to be filled by the audience itself. And this is where the art of filmmaking begins. You need to pick those events, developments, experiences, breaches and coincidences in the life of Hermann Huber, that stand for it in its entirety. The ones that enable the viewer to get to know the protagonist, to understand his nature, to connect with him emotionally. It’s not about reporting 100 expeditions someone has made all over the world, it can be enough to tell one single expedition, because one single happening can describe a character in a way that reveals his innermost self. Or at least, how the filmmakers imagined their protagonist.

The other 99 expeditions will then take place in the audience’s head.

Simon Platzer

There are many key experiences in Hermann Huber’s life. The challenge for directing and editing is to differentiate, to decide what is more valuable and to pick only the very best from a massive amount of interesting content. With small, valuable pieces you can manage to tell big stories.

The interaction between editing and directing is crucial for the film. In the usual way of editing a film, the cutter serves as a pure working tool for the director – an engineer, who brings frames in a flowing form, without thinking about the story. This often requires a bigger amount of time.

In the “director’s cut”, however, the cutters heart and soul flow into the project. Good teamwork and a lot of trust on part of the director gives the editor the freedom to cut the story in a way that gives the film the right feeling. The goal and the story, the knowledge to be passed to the viewer, is determined by the director. This lays the foundation for a project. The interplay between director and editor consists in transferring the anticipated and written emotions to the images, in the creation of sequences and transitions that have the desired effect on the audience.

For the screenwriter and director, it is always exciting and surprising to see how his own ideas and those of the cutter flow one into another and become a unit.

Tom Dauer

It demands trust and that the cutter gets access to the topic – in this case to the personality of Hermann Huber – and develops an own enthusiasm for it. This is of course the ideal case, because then you pull on one string, push each other and develop a story in mutual exchange, trusting the skills and experience of each other. In the best case: real teamwork.

The original story can be changed over and over again. The director relies on the experience of the editor and grants him freedom in his work. On the other hand, the editor knows, based on the focus of the project and the main content points, specified by the director, in which areas he has to put a lot of energy and in which direction the film is heading overall.

For the screenwriter and director, who was the first to get to know and research the story and the résumé of the protagonist, this means not to stick to his ideas at any price. Being open to new input without losing the core of the initial story out of sight is really important. Only then can “my” film become “our” film, and by this pass through a process that everyone involved finds enriching, which the case of “The Value of Time” worked very well.

with Tom Dauer and Simon Platzer