PhD project

”Beyond Cut and Join" by Kersti Grunditz Brennan

Researcher: Kersti Grunditz Brennan

Beyond Cut and Join – Expanding the creative role of film editing is a PhD project by Kersti Grunditz Brennan. Kersti is a PhD candidate in film and media.

Cut and Join are both verbs and nouns. Beyond the verbs lie the creative actions of the editor. Beyond the nouns lie the creative authorship of editing.

Expanding the creative role of film editing is a three-fold proposition. One aim is to acknowledge the impact of the editor and the editing on the film. Another is to suggest modes for filmmaking where creation in the edit room is a prominent part of the process. The third is to keep recognizing cinematic storytelling as something other than the sum of its parts.

I fell in love with editing right away, on my very first attempt at a video dance. That was long before I shifted my professional field from dance to film. I still love editing, I think it holds a vast potential for groundbreaking storytelling and I have theories on how to tap into that potential. I want change and awareness to come out of this research and I want new conversations around the issues that brought me to it.

Abstract

The research project Beyond Cut and Join – Expanding the creative role of film editing stems from two major observations over decades of professional film editing experience: that the full potential of film editing is untapped in filmmaking, especially in relation to character creation, and that editors’ skills, influence and authorial contribution are often misunderstood and undervalued. Through editing practice and writing, the research explores an expanded role of editing by asking: 1. what is a useful and challenging creative research design for exploring editing; 2. what can editing do to create characters, and 3. what expanded description of film editing can be articulated for these explorations. The research aims to; articulate creative strategies for shaping characters through editing that add to editing vocabulary; and to develop collaborative structures and artistic methods that benefit creative processes in the edit room and challenge notions of authorship in cinema. Outcomes of this research will be to elevate the status of editing; point out the editor’s handprint on the film; and encourage filmmaking that activates viewer co-creation of film characters by dramaturgy, aesthetics, and content creation that places editing in the forefront.

Research context

Few scholars are working with questions of editing from an embodied perspective, but Karen Pearlman’s research on rhythm, distributed cognition, and kinesthetic empathy in relation of film editing forms a foundation for the trajectory of my research. More than in academic fields, I’ve come to inscribe my research interests in artist traditions that inspire me: Maya Deren’s work with dance film, Yvonne Rainer’s approach to movement, and her shift from dance to film and back to dance, Derek Jarman’s, Marie-Louise Ekman’s and Agnes Varda’s film works that resonate with me in their play with anachronism, surrealism and theater for film. I am also guided and inspired by texts and authors I keep returning to; Susan Sontag (Regarding the pain of others), Jeanette Winterson, and Kerstin Ekman.

Conclusions

I started this research endeavor from a sense that the artistic practice of editing was undervalued, and that editors often were treated as interchangeable. Lauding exclamations of editing as “magic” only adds to the elusiveness of the practice. Magic just happens and if it doesn’t, there is nothing to do about it. Similarly, lauding the “genius” intuition of certain editors only highlights the precariousness of editors’ positions as members of the creative team. If that intuition fails, what is there to do but replace the editor. I knew before I started that editing matters and it matters who edits, but through this research, I have learned more about how editing matters and why it matters who edits, and that how and why hold keys to elevating the status of this artistic practice that I love so much.

Artistic Manifestations and Academic Outputs

Films, texts, and expositions that have come out of this research and that will be finished and made public for the dissertation defense planned for April 2023.

Film and research project BLOD - in collaboration with Annika Boholm

 

  • Feature film // BLOD
    (first public screening 2019, Official selection LA Underground Film Forum, 2020)
  • BLOD short film // AFTER.
    (in progress)
  • BLOD short film // RED VELVET + score
    (in progress)
  • scenes from BLOD short film // THE FOUR DAY INTENSIVE
    (in progress)
  • Research Catalogues Exposition // BLOD, BLOD(y), BLOD
    (2019, still in progress)
  • Video documentations // BLOD RESEARCH PRESENTATIONS
    (to be published)

Essays

  • Memoir Essay Collection // EDITOR ENTERING SCREEN LEFT
    (first draft)
  • Essay // ATTEMPTS AT CINEMATIC SEDUCTION WITH VARIED SUCCESS RATES
    (revised draft)

Academic papers

  • Academic paper // THE BLOD METHOD
    Co-written with Annika Boholm, published in International Journal of Film and Media Arts on Sep 29, 2022 (Link pending)
  • Academic paper // CREATING CHARACTER IN EDITING
    Co-written with Karen Pearlman, submitted for review to Media Practice and Education on Aug 2, 2022