Maury Shessel, L.A. Film and TV Editor, Reveals the Keys to Effective Editing

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Honored Film Editor Shines a Spotlight for Future Filmmakers on the Movie Editing Process

Maury Shessel, MFA

Award-winning film editor and Emmy recipient, Maury Shessel, knows how to combine the artistic and technical elements of film editing. During a recent Q&A, he shared his experiences, accomplishments, and opinions.

Discussing his beginnings in entertainment, Shessel said, “I began my career at a combat-sports TV station named The Fight Network. I cut (that’s industry jargon for editing) feature pieces on boxers and wrestlers and then ascended the ranks to commercials and original programming. I was educated in the fundamentals of storytelling there and have since put those techniques to use on more than a hundred projects from short films to feature-length films and from music videos to commercials.”

When it comes to working across different media, Shessel breaks down what is involved. “While the technical process of editing is fairly consistent, each medium is a unique art form and each requires distinct expertise. Recently, I cut a commercial for Blue Cross, a feature-length movie called Hopeless Romantic, and a public service announcement entitled Help a Soldier Heal (for which I received an Emmy). In order to do the best possible job, I felt I had to observe the actors and engage with the cinematographer and the director right from the beginning of each production. This always helps me make informed choices throughout the editing process.”

Can anyone with a computer and basic software be an editor? Shessel answers, “There are degrees of expertise to it. Are the major leagues meant for everyone who plays baseball? No, of course not. Displaying your work at the local multiplex or on national TV is like playing professional baseball. There’s much more to editing than just the software. The goal is to use pace and story structure to elicit emotion in an audience. That requires an ‘artist’ behind the computer.”

So editors are artists and craftsmen, not technicians? Shessel replies, “Editors need to be among the top tier in their knowledge of audio and video capabilities, but yes, it is definitely an art form as well. Hi-tech companies have served Hollywood in many ways to help us make the best possible pictures. Of all the jobs on a film set, editing is the place where changes in technology continue to be the most prominent. In any production, the editor needs to be the expert when it comes to technology.”

“Recently, I was speaking at New York Film Academy and was asked why the average movie-goer doesn’t know much about the editing process. My response was that editing is only meant to register on a subconscious level. My job is to make an audience forget that what they’re watching is all make-believe.”

So what’s to come for Shessel in 2017? “I like to stay at the forefront and involve myself with industry trailblazers, so that’s where I’ll be.”

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Maury Shessel

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