Since this blog is primarily about editing, I knew I needed to round up my favorite editing movies. My problem? There aren’t that many. I guess fewer Hollywood writers are also editors. Nevertheless, I’ve compiled what I’ve seen:
You’ve heard of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. You might have heard of Thomas Wolfe. But have you heard of Max Perkins? He’s the editor who saw the potential of these authors and mentored them to success. This movie makes editing almost look painful, with the pages and pages of manuscripts and endless rewrites—unless you love it as much as Max does. Note to authors: Don’t be married to your words. I’m not sure I’d ever spend as much time cutting them as Max did for Tom.
Julie and Julia
Besides giving an inside look at writing, this film provides a sneak peek into the work of another editor, Judith Jones of Knopf (it’s pronounced Kuh-nopff). If only food could win me a book contract... But the best scene with Judith is the one in her office, where she and Julia are trying on book titles. I’m terrible at good titles myself, and I really want to recreate this scene someday for my own book!
Title meetings are a real thing that happens at publishing houses. During my internship at Focus on the Family, I got to sit in on one that finalized the name of a book about C.S. Lewis and Mere Christianity. Picking just the right title isn’t easy, and the meeting wasn’t quick.
This one is about newspapers and reporting, but the main character is a newspaper editor. A small-potatoes writer at the Associated Press in the 1930s gets a job at a small paper with a small staff in a small town, but she becomes a big deal fast when she shows local business owners they can’t control her. If I were going to pull a teachable moment from this movie, it would be, “blackmail can solve your problems,” (whatever happened to “all the news that’s fit to print”?) so I’ll just recommend this film for entertainment value.
Again, journalism plays a large role here, but this movie gives a detailed and realistic look at the editing process at a reputable magazine—one that will get in big trouble if something is wrong. And maybe that’s part of the irony of this film that I never noticed before: No number of red pen passes from editors in an office will spot the type of deceptions Stephen Glass weaves, if he does it well enough. Sometimes fact checking requires a detailed and thorough examination of what’s being presented. Photos would’ve helped too.
I know there’s more movies out there starring editors (The Devil Wears Prada, Fatal Attraction), but they’re not always about the editing. Which ones do you like?