Cutting Shapes

Australian author and film editor Dr Karen Pearlman has published a new book about the art of film editing.


Dr. Karen Pearlman, head of screen studies at AFTRS and co-artistic director of The Physical TV Company, has made her way into the literary field. Her book, Cutting Rhythms: Shaping the Film Edit, has now been published by Focal Press, America's leading publisher of books on media.

The book, which examines the importance of rhythm in film editing, goes beyond the techniques and delves into the philosophy behind editing. Pearlman explained, "When we say ‘rhythm' in film, we mean the way stories, feelings, images and sounds move, their rate of movement, the energy and emphasis placed on them. We experience these movements of events, emotions, sights and sounds as cycles of tension and release, and that is what the editor shapes - the cycles of tension and release that keep us engaged with the film, wanting to know, to feel and to see what happens next."

The book offers a different approach to the film book genre. "Cutting Rhythms is practical, but not instructional," Pearlman explains. "It offers ideas, new perspectives for editors and screen storytellers, exercises they can try out, case studies, new vocabularies for working with collaborators, but not instruction on right and wrong ways of doing things."

Pearlman breaks down rhythm so that filmmakers can apply the principles to their own work and increase their creativity. When faced with the daunting task of editing down hundreds of hours of raw footage, no longer is it a question of when to make the cut, "It's just intuition," Pearlman says.

 "I had to do some research and write a chapter on what editors mean when they say that shaping rhythm is intuitive," the author told FILMINK. "Shaping a film's rhythm is intuitive and that should be recognised and valued, but intuition can be developed, refined, informed and extended and that is what the book is offering - ways of enhancing intuition."

The first of its kind, Pearlman explained the difference between this and other film books. "Most books on editing are technical manuals," she said. "Cutting Rhythms is not about the gear, but about what can be done with the gear to make great films."

Pearlman, a freelance film editor who cuts drama, documentary and experimental projects, has edited many award-winning shorts. She is also a filmmaker and dancer, and her articles, reviews and essays have been published in journals such as RealTime¸ Metro, Cineaste, Performance Research, Dance on Camera Journal and IF.

Cutting Rhythms: Shaping the Film Edit  will be launched on Thursday May 14. Visit the website ( or the Editing Guild site ( for more information.

comments powered by Disqus
follow us on twitter
like us on facebook

latest issue

Filmink latest issue

latest features

No Such Thing As Luc

Plucked from YouTube notoriety, John Luc aka Mychonny is now headlining the feature film, ‘Sucker’.

Can A Violent Man Change?

Following last night’s screening of ‘Hitting Home’, tonight the ABC will air ‘Call Me Dad’, which looks at a program helping men to stop the violence inside them.

The Films That Changed My Life: Bianca Bradey

The star of ‘Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead’ and the upcoming ‘A Night of Horror Volume 1 Anthology’, counts down the films that defined her.

Perfect Black Is The New Black

Welcome to the next step in the evolution of TV technology.

latest reviews

A Perfect Day
A Perfect Day

Spanish director Fernando León de Aranoa cleverly tackles the politics of war, using subtlety instead of shock to aid his cause.

Star Wars Battlefront
Star Wars Battlefront

“Beautiful-looking but shallow…”


“The latest in a long line of con films, Sucker just can’t decide what it wants to be…”


“…an understated film with an intriguing synopsis that belies the ordinariness of its actuality.”