Back to the Future

“I’ve made the mistake of meeting some of the subjects in the middle of the editing process . . . You get opinions about them and you just don’t want that kind of baggage,” Mr. Death editor Karen Schmeer once said of her experiences working with Errol Morris. This simple yet intriguing comment comes from a Manhattan Edit Workshop held in 2009, and it’s just one of many interviews with professionals to be found on Art of the Guillotine, a sprawling educational resource for editors of all stripes. Started in 2007, AOTG collects news items on software and facilities, and posts comprehensive tutorials for those who are looking to break into cutting features and commercials, or just assemble footage they shot in a backyard. Industry professionals also supply blog posts, podcast series, YouTube videos, and contribute to The Assembly, a quarterly digital magazine. The site’s aggregator lets you filter by area of specialization (video, special effects, color correction, sound, animation) and subject (technology, technique, theory).

So who needs film school? While nothing can replace mentors or working alongside others with shared interests, AOTG could transform pedagogy by freeing professors from merely offering software tutorials and allowing them to focus on deeper levels of technique. But there’s also plenty on the site for those who just want to know how their favorite films or television episodes came together, sometimes even on a micro level: Harry Keramidas, editor of Back to the Future, reveals how Robert Zemeckis thought it would be cool to have Marty’s makeshift skateboard spark during a big chase, and reshot portions of the sequence after seeing a rough cut.