Film Editor Question

I am fascinated by the relationship between the Producer, Director and Editor on the making of a motion picture. While I have a basic understanding of the various roles, I have always thought that the Director had the most say in what is actual shot, but that the Editor was most responsible for the final product.

I realize that’s too simplistic, and there is probably a constant collaboration between Producers, Directors and Editors to produce the final product. But who does the Editor technically work for? I assume they are hired by the Producer, but how much control does the Editor have on the final product?

Can the Director override a decision by the Editor on how the film will look? Can the Editor push back on the Director if he/she disagrees, or perhaps go to the Producer to force changes the Editor things should be made, or is the Editor typically subject to the whims of the Director/Producer.

Can someone explain to me how these relationships usually play out in the making of a motion picture?

A good overview of the relationship between an editor and a director is Ralph Rosenblum’s When the shooting stops, the cutting begins: a film editor’s story. He was brought in to save films, notably Woody Allen’s directorial debut Take The Money and Run and Mel Brooks’ The Producers. A Google Books preview is available here.

Really? No other responses?

Like everything else in Hollywood, the answer is “it depends”.

The Ralph Rosenblum book I posted about covers a variety of different situations. In some, he was the director’s preference. In others, he was hired by the studio to save a production. It’s been years since I read it, but in the case of “Take The Money and Run”, Allen’s first cut was terrible, and not the slightest bit funny. Rosenblum basically made the film, assembling Allen’s raw material into what we have now. Allen appreciated it and hired him to cut Bananas, Sleeper, Love and Death, Annie Hall and Interiors.

The brilliant Thelma Schoonmaker is arguably as responsible for the success of the films of Martin Scorsese as Scorsese himself. She explained that you have to be prepared to “kill your children” (although she appeared to have been paraphrasing Faulkner’s “Kill your darlings”). The director is usually too close to the material to know what can be eliminated and what needs to be kept.

The director or producer technically are the boss of the editor. If they don’t like what she’s doing, they get final say.

Whether it’s the producer or the director would depend on the production. The more personal the vision, the more likely it’s the director. But when there’s money on the line, the producer had the final say.