Here’s a list of recommended editing books to help you become a better editor.
Recommended Books for Editors
Are you brand new to editing or a seasoned pro? Perhaps your skills lie somewhere in between. Regardless of where you might be in terms of experience, everyone can benefit from additional knowledge and you don’t have to go to film school to really educate yourself. Here are some of Noah Kadner from FCPWORKS’ favorite picks for books to help you master both the art and craft of editing.
Final Cut Pro X-Specific Editing Books
Let’s begin with some key books on the subject of editing with Final Cut Pro X itself. Of course these aren’t updated to 10.3 just yet as it’s so new. However, in terms of overall workflow and editorial philosophy these are all still highly useful and valid:
Brendon’s book is awesome (I love working with this guy) and chock full of tips gleaned from years of working both with X and with previous iterations of Final Cut Pro. You can also use this as a workbook toward becoming Apple Certified as a Final Cut Pro professional or even a trainer. Study well though, that final exam is quite tricky!
Mike was an assistant editor and full-bore post-production guru for Focus, the 2015 Will Smith movie which had the honor of being the first major Hollywood movie edited in Final Cut Pro X. This is a deep dive into Mike’s editing room where he shares his tips and tricks for handling all of the deliverables you may run into while making a complex project with FCPX. I fondly recall Mike working his tail off on this tome, it’s a labor of love for craft.
From iMovie to Final Cut Pro X: Making the Creative Leap
by Tom Wolsky
This book is still in the hopper but I’ve known Tom for so long and trusted his every word in regard to Final Cut Pro, that I suspect this book will be the real deal. FCPX sometimes gets knocked as ‘iMovie Pro’ but experienced users know there’s much more to it than that. That said, many new editors come to FCPX as a stepping stone up from iMovie. Tom’s book is aimed squarely at them. Tom’s previous iteration of this book has 5 stars on Amazon…
History of Editing Books/Traditional Filmmaking
So now that we have the mechanics out of the way, let’s delve more into the artistry. These are books from seasoned filmmakers haring their decades of knowledge. Although post-production technology is in a constant state of evolution, the deeper thinking behind the creative calls goes largely unchanged. Here are some of the best both in terms of the authors’ movie credits and their innate ability to spin magic from the barest building blocks of production:
In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing
By Walter Murch
Walter is the grandaddy guru of editors and until recently a huge proponent of Final Cut Pro. Perhaps the latest 10.3 update will help bring him back into the fold.
The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film
By Michael Ondaatje
Walter again, this time collaborating with writer Michael Ondaatje give a master class discussion of the artistic tenets of his movies and storytelling approach. Along the way, you’ll receive a treasure trove of insight into classics like American Graffiti, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather Saga, The Talented Mr. Ripley and The English Patient.
Though Robert Rodriguez’s focus was initially more on low budget production, a key aspect of of his success is shooting specifically for the edit. Mastering frugality in production will pay huge benefits once you get into the editing room.
On Directing Film
By David Mamet
Mamet’s rapid fire dialogue style is not for everyone’s tastes but his renown as a screenwriter and filmmaker are hard to deny. Learn from his challenges and his triumphs.
By Sidney Lumet
Maybe you haven’t heard of Lumet’s varied directing credits including Twelve Angry Men, The Pawnbroker, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, The Verdict and more. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find a smarter filmmaker who’s able to communicate all of his experiences and knowledge in such generous ways.
By Robert McKee
McKee is one of the most popular screenwriting teachers and the results speak for themselves. His graduates have written among other films: Air Force One, The Deer Hunter, E.R., A Fish Called Wanda, Forrest Gump, NYPD Blue, and Sleepless in Seattle.
Film Directing Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen
by Steven D. Katz
Katz breaks down the visual language of filmmaking, specifically by treating the frame as a three-dimensional object ready to bend to the demands of your screenplay. Via mastery of this language you can go well beyond spoken dialogue to communicate your story directly to your audience’s shared subconscious.
Respect for Acting 2nd Edition
By Uta Hagen
Yes we said this list was about editing but if you’re cutting any sort of narrative project (or want to get the best out of documentary subjects) you need to know something about the process of acting in order to unlock the best possible performances during post. Uta’s method may be old school but this book is full of acting insights you can follow through into the cutting room.
Practice Makes (Almost) Perfect
Modern NLEs like Final Cut Pro X make it easier than ever to make a cut between two pieces of media. Knowing when and why to cut is the true art of editing. It’s a skill set that will serve you well on any NLE platform. We hope you’ve enjoyed our brief survey of books on editing and filmmaking. Please let us know if we’ve missed any of your favorites.