Emotion in Action Film Editing


As combat performers, we often get obsessed with the improvement of our physical performance. We often assume that the emotional aspect will happen by itself. But, it’s important for both choreographers and performers to incorporate the anger and fear and pain and exhaustion of battle into your rehearsal and practice. I’ve expounded on this before.

However much you have worked on your emotional connection to your stage combat, it could still be edited out if the director or editor doesn’t also prioritize the emotional story.

The following video discusses action film editing, and contrasts Kurosawa’s editing in The Seven Samurai with modern action movies, especially the Marvel franchise:

Seven Samurai – Drama Through Action | CRISWELL | Cinema Cartography

The emotion of your scene is not only conveyed with editing that points to the impact of death and injury, but a number of other sequences. It also includes your performance and any of the music that may accompany your fight scene. Since we’re beating up on the Marvel movies, let’s take a close listen to their score, and see if there’s ways we can make better choices in our films:

The Marvel Symphonic Universe

If you’re an actor in live theatre, then film editing is not relevant to your performance. However, editing is merely the choice of where to put the audience’s attention. In a live performance, directing the audience’s attention is the actor’s job, in collaboration with the other performers on stage. You can incorporate many of the ideas of film editing to your performance.

In the end, our art is storytelling. Always remember that storytelling is an emotional journey, and doesn’t depend on your perfected acrobatic motion, but more crucially on how that motion inspires a reaction in your audience.

David McCormick Head of Stage Combat at Academie Duello and certified Instructor with Fight Directors Canada. Head of Bartitsu at Academie Duello, the longest continuously running Bartitsu program in the world.
Read more from David McCormick.