“You never know what is going to happen when you put two pieces of film together.”
Thelma Schoonmaker, editor (Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Shutter Island, etc.)
Montage forms the heart of every film, every series, every form of cinematic image. It is here that narratives are given their final form, that the dramaturgy is composed and defined. The characters are drawn, documentary material is structured, rhythm and style are shaped, meaning and message are developed. Only on the cutting table does a film and its content acquire their sensual, formal shape. Since the beginnings of the medium, montage has constituted its creative core: selection, ordering, relationship, rhythm, attitude.
The editor plays an important role in shaping the way a film thinks and feels, filling the key position between a film and its audience. To perform competently at this interface, it is essential that an editor demonstrate not only the skills of the craft, a mastery of the tools and technical know-how. The job also requires a sound knowledge of film history and theory, as well as a degree of artistic adeptness in the various film forms and genres. In film postproduction, an editor is often required to collaborate with other departments (direction, sound, sound design, music, VFX) – which calls for skills as a team player, with a willingness to cooperate and sometimes compromise, as well as the ability to make and account for independent decisions. Meanwhile, an editor must preserve a keenness to explore and experiment, while retaining patience and an open mind.
The Montage specialization at HFF centers on seminars that impart all these artistic, technical, and also psychological skills. Next, our Montage students enhance their craft through the hands-on work of shaping fiction and documentary films and formats; finally rounding out their training in internships.
Our central focus is on helping our Montage students find their own personal approach to the process of montage. Along with the technical and dramaturgical know-how, our students acquire a personal style and attitude.
During their Basic Course of Studies, all students admitted to the Montage program attend the same classes as their colleagues specializing in film direction and, like them, they additionally write, shoot, and edit their own films. The basic course of studies grants Montage students the opportunity to gain experience and knowledge from a director’s perspective.
The Main Course of Studies comprises a separate curriculum for the Montage students: They now switch sides – to work on the material shot by the other students. In addition to editing their directing colleagues’ films, they take part in special seminars, exercises, and internships, to expand their skills as editors.
This combination – basic directing studies, plus a main course of editing studies – particularly qualifies our Montage graduates for future roles as Heads of Department.