Why Aspiring Filmmakers Should Watch Films Without Sound

Those who are familiar with my filmmaking pedagogical philosophy know that I advise all filmmakers to achieve full mastery of film editing.

I have explained why in some detail in my posts on the requisite qualities of filmmakers and film editing techniques.

The key components of that learning process are study and practice. I covered practice in my post on film editing exercises.

When it comes to studying the art of film editing, one of your greatest allies is watching films without sound.

Choose a film you greatly admire and watch it without sound. If you have never tried this it may seem silly, but this is an unbelievably useful exercise.

The reason for this is that with no dialogue, music and sound effects taking up mental bandwidth, you become hyper-aware of the editing.

You will notice cuts that you completely missed when the sound was on. I watched many films without sound when I was a newbie, especially those by James Cameron, because his editing is so smooth that it’s hard to study the individual cuts when his compelling dialogue and action are audible. The brain just doesn’t take as much editing-related data in when the soundtrack is competing with the visual data.

Here is a cut that is best studied with the sound off (from Spielberg’s “Minority Report”):

A match cut in Spielberg's 'Minority Report'
Do make sure that it is a film of significant merit, though – learn from the best.

For editing-focused study sessions, I recommend anything by Steven Spielberg or James Cameron, both of whom have a sublime mastery of film editing. Pietro Scalia is an imaginative editor; check out “Hannibal” or “Gladiator,” both of which were edited by him and directed by Ridley Scott.

Try it this weekend – even if it is just a 10-minute sequence – and let me know how it went.

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