5 Amazing Film Editors You Can Learn From

Filmmaking June 22, 2019 5 min read

Film editing is one of the most under-recognized arts in the film industry. A great editor is generally unnoticed. In fact, when an editor does their job well, you usually forget that there was editing at all. Their purpose is to draw you into a story and forget you are watching cuts and changes in camera angle…..most of the time.

Sometimes, a film editor will choose to edit a film in such a way that you actually do notice the edits, the way it’s cut, and the editing plays a part in the story.

Today we’ll take a look at 5 amazing film editors that you can learn a lot from, just by paying close attention to their work.

Stephen Mirrione

Stephen Mirrione is a highly sought after editor who won an Oscar for his editing work on Steven Soderbergh’s fast-paced “Traffic.” That film has a frantic pace and a unique editing style that stood out against many of the other films of the year.

He has since gone on to edit films like the “Hunger Games”, “Birdman”, and 2015’s “The Revenant” for which he earned another Oscar nomination.

His skills and editing style have made him a key part of every project he takes on. His role is almost as important as the directors and the directors he works with recognize this.

On his role as an editor, in an interview with Studio Daily Mirrione said, “An editor really has to take on the role of the audience, making sure that they can see and taste and feel the film just by seeing what is on the screen.”

This is key advice for understanding how to take what a production crew and director have created, and turn it into a movie that people will enjoy watching.

Hank Corwin

Hank Corwin is a long time editor with a range of films under his belt. These include the 1994 Oliver Stone film “Natural Born Killers”, “The Legend Of Bagger Vance”, “The Tree Of Life”, and “The Big Short” for which he earned an Oscar Nomination in 2016.

For “The Big Short” Corwin was tasked with mixing stock footage, actors improvising, and tons of cuts to create a dynamic movie with an action feel and a comic slant.

In an interview for Slate, Corwin discussed his experience editing actors as they improvised scenes. In regards to working with the improvised footage, Corwin said, “I’ll look for moments where the actors aren’t necessarily “acting,” just to bring in that reality. Because these guys were improvising, and they’d be reaching and searching, many times I found the moments when they were searching.

Corwin brings an element of reality to the work he does, and he doesn’t just look for beautiful shots, he looks for human experiences that he can bring into the film to connect the viewer to the story and the characters.

Margaret Sixel

While both “The Big Short” and “The Revenant” were nominated for the Oscar for best editing in 2016, the winner was “Mad Max: Fury Road” edited by Margaret Sixel.

Sixel is the wife of Australian director George Miller, who’s most known for his Mad Max reboot films. He hired his wife to work as his editor, which was a smart choice for him seeing as how remarkable she is.

Many of the best editors in Hollywood are women. It’s hard to put a finger on why that is, but either way, Margaret Sixel is one of the best, and it shows. She knows how to build suspense, pack in loads of action, and keep you at the edge of your seat, as she does with “Fury Road.”

Jeffrey Ford

Jeffrey Ford is a bit of a superhero in the editing world, or at least he’s part of bringing superheroes to life on the big screen. Along with films like “One Hour Photo” and “The Family Stone”, Ford has made a name for himself as a go-to for blockbuster superhero films like the 3 films in the “Captain America” series, “The Avengers” and “Iron Man 3”.

He gets these jobs over and over again because he understands the amount of work needed to handle projects of this size, and he knows how to keep an audience entertained.

In an interview with Videomaker, he explains how the process of film editing is like an extreme sport saying, “Feature film editing is a lot like an extreme sport, it really is. Time is limited, budgets and deadlines get pushed to the limit, and in the last 40 days of a project, you’re easily working 14-16 hour days, going on little to no sleep. The push is intense, but everyone works to make sure you’re delivering the best.”

He also points out in the same interview that getting work in Hollywood is about working hard and being nice, stating, “Treating people well and demonstrating good teamwork is crucial to winning more work. If you treat people bad, you won’t last long in Hollywood.”

Tim Squyres

Tim Squyres is a master editor with roughly 30 films to his credit. Included in his list are films like “Gosford Park” and “Unbroken”, but most notably, Squyres is a long time collaborator with director Ang Lee.

In fact, Squyres has edited all of Lee’s films except for one. Squyres has cut films like “Hulk”, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, and “Life Of Pi” for which he got an Academy Award nomination for best editing.

When editing “Life Of Pi” which was made for 3D, Squyres actually opted to edit in 3D, wearing the glasses through the entire edit process. In stated in one interview that he didn’t even see the movie in 2D until after it came out. By taking this approach, he was able to put himself in the seat of the audience and create the best 3D experience possible.

Film editing is such an important part of filmmaking, and it is a shame that great film editors don’t get as much recognition as great directors do. Take a look at the editors we highlighted and go out and find your favorite editors in order to get a better picture of the art of film editing.