Editors are magicians. They cut films and TV shows together and help bring stories forward. One of the boldest edits they do is the jump cut. It's a way to really command the audience and to take authority over the storytelling. It can help the editor manipulate the viewer and edge them toward the set of emotions they want them to feel. 

But what is a jump cut? And how can you effectively use them to create film and television stories? 

Today, we're going to go over the definition of a jump cut, some examples from film and TV, and even some strategies you can use to make sure your edits stand out among the crowd. 

Ready? Let's hop into it. 

What Is a Jump Cut? (Definition and Examples)

Jump cuts differ from other editing maneuvers because they make the edit visible, rather than hiding the fact that scenes were edited together. They are the most obvious cuts, but there is a distinct reason so many artists enjoy using them. 

Jump Cut Definition 

Jump cuts are an editing technique that allows you to abruptly jump forward or backward, resulting in a sense of confusion, heightened emotions, disorientation, and frenzied thinking. It creates a jarring effect for the viewer by skipping around and forcing them to figure out the continuity of the scene. 

Who Invented the Jump Cut? 

The jump cut was actually invented by accident by Georges Méliès.

He was a director and a magician. When his camera jammed, and then he had to reload it, he discovered that while the people in the scene had jumped, but the setting remained unchanged. This accidental movie magic made people think the time had passed. And he kept it in the movie, even using more of them later to show what had happened between the cuts. 

Why Use a Jump Cut? 

Using a jump cut in a film or TV show allows you to tell the audience time has passed. It's a stylistic way to show it in just a few moments. There are many uses for the editing technique. 

Jump cuts can: 

  • Amplify tension
  • Show the mental state of a character
  • Create a montage
  • Introduce a new character in a scene
  • Highlight a change in time

Jump Cut Strategy 

When it comes time to integrate jump cuts, think about immersing your audience in the story. Jump cuts are the opposite of continuity editing. Instead of a seamless and immersive progression, we create something that feels less natural by chopping up a single clip so that the subject "jumps" at each edit point.

But why do cuts work? According to Walter Murch, Academy Award-winning editor behind, among others, Apocalypse Now: 

"We accept the cut because it resembles the way images are juxtaposed in our dreams. In fact, the abruptness of the cut may be one of the key determinants in actually producing the similarity between films and dreams."

You can do the same thing by lining up a bunch of clips that resemble each other to some extent—we're playing with time here, skipping or repeating actions, movement, and emotion. It's an odd and uncanny type of mood to set, but if the occasion calls for them, jump cuts might give the scene a certain edge.

You can use jump cuts and smash cuts to dice a sequence up, like in Requiem for a Dream. You can also smash between dramatic moments and points of transition, gripping the audience at every intersection between scenes.

Jump Cut Examples 

To learn more about jump cuts, I think it's time to see them in action.

Jump cut examples occur all over. But they really became popular during the French New Wave. One of the most popular movies filled with these kinds of cuts was Jean Luc Godard's Breathless. We see lots of different jump cuts in the movie to move time or change which characters are in the scene. 

In A Bronx Tale, we learn what life is like in the Bronx through a series of jump cuts that take us throughout the day. We see kids playing, people doing business, and the evolution of who hits the streets and when. This gives us a sense of the community and also shows us how the character relates to the people they meet every day. 

Another interesting element inside jump cuts is to promote comedy, because it juxtaposes what we thought would be on screen with what actually appears.

In Schindler's List, a really important dramatic movie, there is a need for some levity. In the scene below, we follow Oskar Schindler as he picks a secretary. The jump cuts here show how he is very enthusiastic about the beautiful women and how he cycles through them. And the jump cuts also show he doesn't take the efficient female worker seriously and only has eyes for the younger interviewees. These cuts show the passing of time and provide levity in a heavy movie. 

Summing Up "What Is a Jump Cut? (Definition and Examples)"

Jump cuts are some of the most interesting and versatile edits available to you. You can use them in almost any scene, and if you want to hide your jumps, we have some tips for you there as well. With this and every other essential cut, you should be well on your way to being a great editor and filmmaker. Make sure the transition matches the scene and know how you want the audience to feel when you employ these techniques. 

Let us know your favorite jump cuts in the comments and also air any corners or questions. 

Now go get editing.