'In Jackson Heights' Director Frederick Wiseman Finds His Film's Internal Rhythm in the Edit Suite

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Filmmaker Frederick Wiseman discusses his almost 50-year filmmaking career with Filmmaker Magazine and his latest documentary, In Jackson Heights, about the diverse Queens neighborhood.

Wiseman directed, edited, sound recorded, and produced the film. "I like doing all of those different elements. It gives me complete control over the project, which I like," he explains.
 "You can have good rushes and screw it up in the editing. You can have mediocre rushes and improve it in the editing. If you are lucky you’ll have good rushes and edit well. The sequences in the movies are always much shorter than what they really were. It’s a question of editing them down to a usable form. I have to be fair to the participants but at the same time I have to create an internal rhythm within the sequence. That’s what editing is about. You can kill it by leaving it too short or too long.”

Wiseman edited down over 120 hours of footage to arrive at the 3-hour film. "It’s a 1:40 ratio...You have to sit there and try to figure out what the material is trying to say to you.”