Cutting Rhythms : Intuitive Film Editing book cover
2nd Edition

Cutting Rhythms
Intuitive Film Editing

ISBN 9781138856516
Published December 14, 2015 by Routledge
280 Pages

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Book Description

There are many books on the technical aspects of film and video editing. Much rarer are books on how editors think and make creative decisions.

Filled with timeless principles and thought-provoking examples from a variety of international films, the second edition of Karen Pearlman’s Cutting Rhythms offers an in-depth study of the film editor’s rhythmic creativity and intuition, the processes and tools editors use to shape rhythms, and how rhythm works to engage audiences in film. While respecting the importance of intuitive flow in the cutting room, this book offers processes for understanding what editing intuition is and how to develop it. This fully revised and updated edition contains:

  • New chapters on collaboration and "editing thinking";
  • Advice on making onscreen drafts before finalizing your story
  • Tips on how to create and sustain audience empathy and engagement;
  • Explanations of how rhythm is perceived, learned, practiced and applied in editing;
  • Updated discussions of intuition, structure and dynamics;
  • An all-new companion website ( with video examples and links for expanding and illustrating the principles of key chapters in the book.

Table of Contents





CHAPTER 1 Rhythmic Intuition

Intuitive Thinking

Movement and Intuition

Rhythm is Made of Movement

Noticing Movement as Rhythm

Feeling Movement’s Rhythmic Potential

Empathy with Movement: Experience, Body and Brain

Being Rhythm & Thinking Rhythmically

CHAPTER 2 Editing as Choreography

Shifting the Discussion from Music to


Movement Phrases

Why Bother with Phrasing?

Phrasing Considerations

CHAPTER 3 Timing, Pacing, and Trajectory Phrasing



Trajectory Phrasing

CHAPTER 4 Tension, Release, and Synchronization

Tension and Release


Case Study in Tension, Release, and Synchronization:

Broadcast News

CHAPTER 5 Physical, Emotional, and Event Rhythms

Three Kinds of Movement

Good Editing is Not Invisible

CHAPTER 6 Physical Rhythm


Physical Storytelling

Dancing Edits

Singing the Rhythm

Case Study: "Now" Scene from Thursday’s Fictions

CHAPTER 7 Emotional Rhythm

Prepare, Action, Rest

The Actor’s Actions


Case Study: The Hours

CHAPTER 8 Event Rhythm

First Scenes

Dramatic Questions

Structures as Event Patterns

Energy, Pace and Timing

Creating Structure and Rhythm Simultaneously

Real Events v. Fictional Events

Reintegrating Rhythms

Case Study: The Godfather

Case Study: Goodfellas


Thematic Montage

Continuity Cutting

Points along the Spectrum from Thematic Montage to Continuity Cutting



Points along the Spectrum from Collision to Linkage

Style Case Studies

Contemporary Style: After the New Wave

CHAPTER 10 Devices

Parallel Action

Parallel Action Case Studies

Slow Motion

Slow Motion Case Studies

Fast Motion

Two Quick Fast Motion Case Studies

CHAPTER 11 Editing & The Vulcan Mind Meld

The Mind Meld

Decision Making

Responsive Creativity

Power and Hierarchy

CHAPTER 12 Editing Thinking & Onscreen Drafting

Editing Thinking

What is an Onscreen Draft

Why Draft

Rapid Prototyping

Embodied Decision Making

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Dr. Karen Pearlman is a director of the multi-award winning Physical TV Company where she directs, produces and edits drama, documentary and dance film. Currently a lecturer in Screen Production at Macquarie University, Karen is a former President of the Australian Screen Editors Guild and a four-time nominee for Best Editing at the Australian Screen Editors Guild Annual Award.


"Karen’s insights about the flow of story, emotion, image and sound have helped me at all stages of filmmaking, from onscreen drafting to fine cutting." - Genevieve Clay-Smith, multi-award winning Director

"A great resource! Karen’s out-of–the box thinking about editing brings a new level of insight and articulation to describing what editors do and how we do it." - Jason Ballantine, ASE