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Paul Hirsch's Editing Book
by Richard Jack Smith

In 1977, film editor Paul Hirsch embarked on a once in a lifetime adventure. With Marcia Lucas and Raymond Chew, he helped to shape what we now regard as Star Wars: A New Hope. One year later, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would bless this team with a golden statuette. Published in 2019 by Chicago Review Press, A Long Time Ago in a Cutting Room Far, Far Away: My Fifty Years Editing Hollywood Hits - Star Wars, Carrie, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Mission: Impossible, and More follows Hirsch's ups and downs.

There were hits and flops. Brian De Palma's Blow Out fell into the latter category. However, while Hirsch's book seems good on life experience, it comes up short on the chosen theme. Quite simply, I didn't learn anything new. This dilemma also affected Vincent LoBrutto's The Art of Motion Picture Editing and Jim Clark's Dream Repairman: Adventures in Film Editing. Lacking insight is one thing yet these volumes share another problem: getting sidetracked.

So what did I want from A Long Time Ago in a Cutting Room Far, Far Away? Something closer to Ralph E. Winters' Some Cutting Remarks: Seventy Years a Film Editor as well as Ralph Rosenblum and Robert Karen's When the Shooting Stops, the Cutting Begins. Both books were informative and entertaining. 

I valued Hirsch's writing more for the Hollywood stories about directors such as George Lucas and Brian De Palma. He would explain the individual quirks, and how much autonomy was allowed in the cutting room. As for editing, there are extremely basic concepts including split screens, running times, previews, music placement and alternate versions. It's beginner stuff really.

As of this writing, I hope that more editors are inspired to share their stories and knowledge. It would be terrific to see writings by people like John Ottman, William Goldenberg, Thelma Schoonmaker, Pietro Scalia and John Wright among many others. There's a huge gap in the market as budding filmmakers prove eager to absorb every new tome.

In the meantime, I give Paul Hirsch's A Long Time Ago in a Cutting Room Far, Far Away three out of five stars.

Time to rhyme:

Fair to say I was bitten.

More books on film editing should be written.

Paul Hirsch's story I bought

Though its value came up short.


If it's a point of interest to rekindle

This work can be found on Kindle.

There was nothing new.

Even Ray wasn't given its due.


A lot more could be said

before putting the subject to bed.

Chapters focus on a specific title

like Star Wars and others so vital.


With friendships opening and shutting,

it's about life more than cutting.

Little time it took,

I would still recommend this book.

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