Call for Papers for themed issue Revealing the Invisible: Women and Editing in Central and Eastern European Film

Apparatus. Film, Media and Digital Cultures of Central and Eastern Europe:Call for papers for the themed issue

Revealing the Invisible: Women and Editing in Central and Eastern European Film

Guest edited by Adelheid Heftberger and Karen Pearlman


Women have been a vital part of film production since its beginning. However, their history in all its richness has not been adequately studied.[i] This themed issue of Apparatus - Film, Media and Digital Cultures of Central and Eastern Europe, scheduled for spring 2018, will focus on women’s creative work, particularly in a significantly under-theorised aspect of film: editing.


Editors are regularly ascribed characteristics that align with invisibility. Mary Lampson (editor of films by Emile de Antonio and Barbara Kopple) for example, says, echoing many editors’ descriptions of themselves: “Many good editors are sort of introverted, shy people, observers of life.”[ii] Their sense of rhythm has been frequently praised, and of course the patience it needs to work through abundant material and interact with directors and other members of the production team. These industry standard descriptions raise questions: are these traits gendered (in fact or in perception)? Are they less valorised than the qualities ascribed to (usually male) directors? Are sense of rhythm and structure, and skills of observation being insufficiently recognised as significant creative contributions in the evaluation of films? Are the products of editing processes, which are coherent and compelling structures, rhythms, and styles in the movement of story, emotion, image and sound[iii], being overlooked in the evaluation of film due to truisms about their ‘invisibility’?


Is there a connection between the under-theorising of editing and the under-theorisation of women in film production? Editing is often described as the ‘invisible art’. Co-editor of this themed issue Karen Pearlman has proposed that good editing is not invisible, and to describe it as invisible is an industrial issue for editors who are also relegated to invisibility.[iv] Invisibility of women has been noted as a significant issue in disciplines of history, art and art history. Given that editing is one of the very few areas of film production that is even close to gender parity in employment, and that many classic films having been crafted by female editors,[v] the question arises: is there a relationship between the historical invisibilities of women and editors?


Soviet montage is one kind of editing which stands out in opposition to ‘invisibility’. It is highly visible, and some of the female editors of the Soviet Montage period are relatively well known still (for example Esfir’ Shub or Dziga Vertov’s collaborator and wife Elizaveta Svilova).[vi] However others have been more or less forgotten (like Vera Khanzhonkova, the wife of the early film producer Aleksandr Khanzhonkov). We know from commentaries of their contemporaries that these women were respected as editors in their time. For example, in Sergey Yutkevich’s and Aleksandr Levshin’s scenario “A Film About Films”[vii], which never got made, these three women were meant to feature as prime examples for creating innovative editing. It is also worth mentioning that both Shub and Svilova were working mostly on documentary films and even mostly with found footage. But even the “screen visibility” Yutkevich and Levshin were prepared to give to female editors, would not necessarily mean clearer understanding of the process as a whole, their collaborations with their colleagues and their degree of independence.


Visibility can - in Russia but arguably Central and Eastern Europe as a whole - also be understood as a language problem. Even though, for example, Shub left a substantial amount of writings, these writings have not been translated and thus have not been given serious research attention internationally. Language issues extend beyond simple translation issues though. For example, there is a question of how to read between the lines of the writing of Soviet women editors when they may have been writing with the knowledge that their words could be scrutinised by government censors. Significant questions also arise when we consider the kinds of writing and words that women use about themselves and their work. For example, in Red Women on the Silver Screen (1993), Lynne Attwood writes about a Stalin Era women’s conference at which "delegates related the heroic feats of their husbands and discussed what they had done to help". By positioning themselves as helpers, rather than agents and credited creative collaborators, women add to their invisibility. Similarly editors commonly use language that draws a veil around editing processes with words like “instinctive” and “magic”[viii].


Interviews with editors or editors own biographical and experiential accounts are highly relevant to the inquiries of this journal issue but they rarely explicitly address concepts, context and methodology. One disciplinary area currently engaging with the question of academic articulation of editing expertise is cognitive studies of the moving image.[ix] Finally, there is the language used in evaluating films or the processes of making them. Here the language generally positions the director as the decision maker about editing, when in fact, thousands of decisions are made by the editor before showing the director one decision to ratify. The editor makes many creative contributions through their embodied expertise and it would be incorrect to suggest that “the editor functions as a pair of hands rather than as a thinker in the editing process. ... editing is an instance of integrated cognition and action.”[x] Is attributing editing decisions to directors an entrenched systematic erasure of editor’s visibility?


How can unearthing the involvement of female collaboration, specifically editing, in film production change the way we write film history and regard the film canon? How much do we actually know about the presence of female editors in Polish Post-war cinema, Czech New Wave or DEFA-films, just to name a few famous currents within Central and Eastern European Cinema?


How do we have to change our research methods in order to achieve a valid “big data” basis if we need it for our research? How can film archives and/or online knowledge bases support and contribute such research? What are the possible advantages of computer aided tools and how can the data be interpreted in a meaningful way for the investigation into the proposed topic(s)?


In addition to a contribution to film historiography and uncovering archival sources which might shed light on female editors, there are many other possible topics which can be addressed:

  • Women and the history of editing
  • Critical evaluations of editing
  • Editing and authorship
  • Women editors in Central and Eastern European film industries (past and present)
  • Creativity in film editing
  • Historical and contemporary understanding of the difference between a ‘cutter’ (who assembles footage according to instructions) and an ‘editor’ who makes creative contributions and decisions
  • Power structures built into the positioning of women and the crew roles of editing, including, for example, questions of pay, authority, collaboration and credit
  • Particular partnerships and distinctive aspects of these partnership’s creative output
  • Backgrounds and training of editors
  • Women in the Soviet montage era and other contexts as editors, mentors, editor/directors, key thinkers
  • Representation (or not) of women, and of editors in national filmographies and narratives
  • Influence of editors in documentary film, studio style and auteur cinema in different countries / in film history
  • Editing and how rhythm, structure or film style are shaped, shared and perceived
  • Investigations of ideas about what is ‘women’s work’ including, for example stencil coloring, cutting and, recently, digital restoration or typical “female” jobs like knitting, sewing, typing or switchboard operators
  • film historical research, into how editors present themselves, in self-images, how they are described or assessed by others, and how their image developed
  • Other relevant questions and topics welcome


Abstracts (200-350 words) and a short biography should be submitted to Adelheid Heftberger ( and Karen Pearlman ( by October 10, 2017 for consideration by the editors. For this themed issue we prefer abstracts in English, but Apparatus generally publishes articles in all of the languages of the region always accompanied by abstracts in English, German and Russian.


Selected articles will undergo an editorial and double blind peer reviewed process before final acceptance.


 Editor Lilia Brik in 1928


Deadline for abstracts: 10 October 2017


Notification of acceptance: 10 November 2017


Deadline for full articles: 10 February 2018



[i] See Leigh, Michele. 2015. “Reading between the Lines: History and the Studio Owner’s Wife.” In Doing Women’s Film History. Reframing Cinemas, Past and Future, edited by Christine Gledhill, and Julia Knight. Urbana.

[ii] See Anderson, John. 2012. “The ‘Invisible Art’: A Woman’s Touch Behind the Scenes”.

[iii] See Pearlman, Karen. 2015. Cutting Rhythms, Intuitive Film Editing. New York; London.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] See Cousins, Mark. 2016. “Scissor Sisters”., and Galvao, S. 2015. “‘A Tedious Job’ – Women and Film Editing”.

[vi] See Kukulin, Il’ia. 2015. Mashiny zashumevshego vremeni: kak sovetskii montazh stal metodom neoficial’noi kul’tury. Moscow.

[vii] See Yutkevich, Sergey, and Levshin, Aleksandr. 1985. “Fil’ma o fil’me”. In Iz istorii kino. Dokumenty i materialy 11. 23–25, Moscow.

[viii] See Oldham, Gabriella. 1992. First Cut, Conversations with film editors. Berkeley; Los Angeles.

[ix] See for example: Pearlman, Karen. 2015. Cutting Rhythms, Intuitive Film Editing. New York; London; Pearlman, Karen.  2017. “Editing and Cognition Beyond Continuity.” Projections, Journal of Movies and Mind; Pearlman, Karen. 2018. “Documentary Editing and Distributed Cognition.” In A Cognitive Approach to Documentary Film, edited by Catalin Brylla & M. Kramer, Basingstoke; Smith, Tim J. 2012. “The Attentional Theory of Cinematic Continuity”, Projections Journal of Movies and Mind.

[x] See Pearlman, 2018.