The One Editing Rule Margaret Sixel Followed Religiously on Mad Max: Fury Road

If there is one person that got propelled to the front of the film talk this year, it’s editor Margaret Sixel, who turned an impossible task of editing 480 hours of footage filmed by a dozen cameras into one of the most exciting action film in a long time.

It was Sixel’s first action film as an editor, and she schooled everybody managing to tell a visual story with fast cuts that could be seen and helped moving the story forward.

The loudest illustration of that point being Vashi Nedomansky‘s supercut of 5 action films with an average shot length (ASL) under 2 seconds (when films usually turn around 7.8 seconds.

Watching the video below, where the five films have been sped up to 12x their normal speed, you can see that only one of them is still understandable. Guess which one?

THE FASTEST CUT: FURIOUS FILM EDITING from Vashi Nedomansky on Vimeo.

Sixel, who’s fairly discreet and hasn’t give any masterclass yet, has been interviewed by many outlets and always manages to reveal a bit of her process and personality. In a recent interview with the L.A. Times, she discusses the one rule she follows to make sure the story moves forward and avoid being influenced by the wrong motives. (In Mad Max’s instance: pleasing the fans)

The One Editing Rule Margaret Sixel Followed Religiously on Mad Max: Fury Road

“I don’t like meaningless cutting. It irritates me. (…) We had a few hardcore fans in the cutting room and they’d [gasp] and say, “You can’t do that!” [cut a shot of the Interceptor out].

I’d say, “Why can’t I?” They’d say, “The fans want to see the Interceptor.” And I’d say, [groaning] “But it just slows everything down. Moving on here!”

I wanted every single shot to progress the story. I don’t like repetition. And I think we applied that rule religiously throughout the film.

The rule being “No similar shots”?

Or ones that have no added information. I watched a film last night and they kept cutting back again and again and the expression on the actor’s face was exactly the same. I felt like, “You’ve used the shot three times already!” That’s what I don’t like. There’d better be some progress.”

What I find particularly interesting here is that Sixel had a line, and an intention she followed and that guided her through the editing. I believe that it’s because she had a vision for what the editing should achieve that she could made choices that took everybody by surprise and in a way renew a genre that has fallen into the trap of cutting for the sake of speed and bombarding the audience with repetitive information.

This one rule Sixel follows, adding a shot only if it helps the story progress, is identical to the one a screenwriter and a director should follow to make sure the story they try to tell gets richer as it moves forward.

To keep in mind.

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