In 1990 I worked on ‘Until The End of The World’, a film directed by Wim Wenders. It was one of the first films to explore using high definition video to do visual effects. The movie was shot on film. It was also edited on film. The editor was a wonderful man named Peter Przygoda, a long time film editor with many wonderful films to his credit. I am forever grateful to Peter as he gave me one of the most important understandings of my career.
We were in doing post production in Berlin. It was late at night, I was getting readying to leave the office and Peter was still at work on the film table. Given the hour, he had a glass of red wine and a small plate of cheese on the table beside him. He was the self-proclaimed inventor of the “ stink cheese” method of film editing which involves having a good glass of red wine, a really stinky cheese and an quiet place to work.
As I was walking out the door, Peter called me into the editing room. Do you know what editing a film is all about, he asked. I said that I knew he would show me. Sit down and learn something, he said.
I walked over and sat down. He turned back to the flatbed, took a deep breath and pressed the play button. As the film began to wind its way across the Steenbeck, Peter took a nice long breath. It only took a moment to realize that the editing of the film was tied to his breath. The pacing of the cuts was almost perfectly in sync with the natural rhythm of his breathing. I was stunned.
He turned to me and said, if you want the audience to relax, slow down the cuts. If you want them to feel nervous speed things up. Knowing this has completely transformed the way I watch films and it has continued to inspire me when I think about content.