Creating character in editing

Kersti Grunditz Brennan*, Karen Pearlman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article focuses on methods by which editors shape character in editing. Given that editors’ choices of shot, take, and timing augment and vary actors’ performances and directors’ instructions, and that these choices shape the audience perception of film characters, we ask: what components of editors’ expertise are activated in shaping material to create characters that viewers can invest in emotionally? Editors’ expertise is generally referred to as ‘intuitive’, which is a shorthand for knowledge and experience that informs decision making at a pre-conscious level. This article argues that ‘intuitive’ is not incorrect, however, drawing on the authors’ extensive editing practice and building on existing editing theory as well as ideas from science and film studies, we seek more specific identification and articulation of editors’ expertise. This article offers an original editing taxonomy in relation to editing character. The taxonomy includes explicit articulations of kinaesthetic empathy and implicit knowledge such as laws of physics, reflex reactions, and cultural conditioning. Awareness of these pervasive but often unrecognised forms of knowledge, we argue, can enhance editors’ ability to develop multifaceted characters through editing, clarify discussions between collaborators, and even enhance understanding of the art of editing more generally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-252
Number of pages18
JournalMedia Practice and Education
Issue number3
Early online date10 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • character
  • collaboration
  • editors
  • expertise
  • film editing
  • filmmaking


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