Los Angeles Film Editor, Maury Shessel, Sits Down for a One-on-One Interview

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Distinguished film editor shares his expertise for the benefit of film makers in 2017 and beyond

Maury Shessel, an Emmy recipient and award-winning film editor, with a talent for perfecting the artistic and technical side of film editing, sat down to discuss his strengths, accomplishments, and experiences.

When asked about his work as a film editor, Shessel responded, “I started in news for a combat-sports station called The Fight Network. I edited (known as “cutting” in the industry) feature pieces on prize fighters and was then promoted to working on original programming and commercials. I learned the basics of storytelling there, and since then, have applied that to more than 100 projects in movies, short films, commercials, and music videos.”

Is editing something anyone can do with software that comes on a standard computer? Shessel explains, “There are levels of skill to it. Can anyone who plays baseball play in the major leagues? Editing a project that will be shown in theaters or on television is like being in the majors. It involves creating emotion, pace, and story structure which all require creative choices that no computer can help you make. That can only be done by a human being – an artist.”

So editing is not a technical skill but a creative art form? Shessel answers, “It’s an art form that requires a high level of technical expertise with audio and video technologies. The tech industries have catered to Hollywood in many ways to help us make the best imagery we possibly can. Editing is the area where the greatest change has occurred. I believe the editor should be the most technically skilled artist involved in a movie.”

As an editor who has worked on feature-length films, shorts, commercials, news, and music videos, Shessel weighs in about working across different media. “Recently, I cut a movie called Hopeless Romantic, a commercial for Blue Cross, and a public service announcement called Help a Soldier Heal (for which I took home an Emmy). While the mechanics of editing are the same, these are all separate art forms that require a distinct set of creative skills. Movies are like novels, commercials are like ads, and public service announcements are like op-ed articles. Whatever the project, I like to involve myself early on. It’s so important to see how the actors play their parts, what the cinematographer does with the camera and how the director directs. This helps me make informed decisions when I’m juxtaposing images together in my edit bay.”

“Last month, when I was a guest speaker at New York Film Academy, I was asked why the public doesn’t hear more about film editing. The answer is that editing is a subliminal art form. If I’ve done my job right, it won’t register with viewers that I was there. I’m responsible for creating the emotion of a piece, so the goal is to get viewers lost in what they’re watching – to have their disbelief suspended.”

So what’s next for Shessel: “I like to stay on the cutting edge, pun intended (that’s an editor joke) and attach myself to projects that push the envelope of what’s possible, so that’s where you’ll find me.”

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Maury Shessel

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