If you’d ask me to recommend you only one filmmaking book, I wouldn't hesitate. My choice would be In the Blink of an Eye by legendary film editor Walter Murch.
And actually, I'm not the only one. Seems like Guillermo del Toro feels the same.
Book: In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing by Walter Murch. Much is ferociously intelligent and erudite. One of the best.— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) February 6, 2016
Let me shed some light on what you can expect from it.
Originally In the Blink of an Eye was a lecture given by Walter Murch in Sydney, Australia, in 1988. It’s still 100% relevant today.
It’s just one of those books that touches on timeless topics that will never grow old. It’s a series of short essays, and it’s a fun read even for people who prefer audiobooks.
What you’ll learn
In The Blink of an Eye will teach you about the art of editing. A cut is not like anything we experience in day-to-day life, yet it works. But why does it work, what is the purpose of cutting, and what makes a good cut?
That last question is answered by the Rule Of Six and explains the criteria for a perfect cut.
Murch talks about what films have in common with dreams. He discusses questions editors should ask themselves when shaping the narrative. Generally, he goes deep into his approach to film editing.
The second edition also discusses how digital editing revolutionized the industry (it was published in 2001). Personally, I think this perspective on the history of digital editing is highly valuable.
Murch was born in 1943 in New York City. He started editing in 1965, mostly as a sound editor. He edited sound for The Godfather II and is known for picture editing for Apocalypse Now, The English Patient, The Conversation, and many many more narrative films and documentaries.
Murch won three Oscars. With almost 50 years of picture editing experience, he’s one of a few people who managed to thrive in his role for most of his career.
He's still active, with his last credit for the 2019 documentary Coup 53.
Murch is a huge advocate of standing position for editing. He explains that editing is like being a surgeon, a short-order cook, and an orchestra conductor. All of these jobs are performed standing, and all of them require that you’re very aware of your action placed in the time dimension.
Murch asked Adobe to add the Trim Edit feature to Premiere Pro, which he calls the "Cutting on the Fly" feature himself.
All of us can use it now, and it’s really the best feature for making sure that a specific cut works well.
Francis Ford Coppola wrote a foreword to the book.
You know, one of the most influential filmmakers ever.
The first edition was published in 1995. The second edition, which accommodates for developments in digital editing, was published in 2001.
It’s a fast read. Not only because it's 146 pages long. First and foremost, it's just very enjoyable. It's a regular-sized book at dimensions of folded A4 paper sheet.
At the moment of writing this article, it's #1 in Film & Television on Amazon (with over 1100 reviews) which kind of speaks for itself.
Who is it for?
It’s probably the most popular book about the art of editing ever written.
Anyone into filmmaking will find it extremely insightful. Are you a camera assistant? Read it.
Are you a multi-award-winning director? Read it.
Many people would pay twice as much for some creator’s LUTs they will never use. And unlike LUT packs, this book can actually help you become a better storyteller.
Seems like a decent deal for a few hours of a masterclass with one of the most influential editors alive.
There are translations to many foreign languages.
There’s also a Kindle version, but I believe this book really deserves a focused time and a cozy place on your bookshelf.
Will you get a copy? Maybe you already have it. Let us know your impressions in the comments below.
Next time we’ll have a look at the last book on screenwriting you’ll ever need (or at least that’s what they say).