Behind the Edit: The Orson Welles Memo

Taught By:

Joey Scoma


Director/editor Joey Scoma goes in-depth on the history of the classic 1958 film Touch of Evil and compares and contrasts the various versions of the film from an editorial perspective.

Lesson Plan

The editing process is one of the most elusive parts of filmmaking to teach and it's rare to get a glimpse into the often private and meticulous decisions filmmakers make in the edit bay. With the 1958 film TOUCH OF EVIL, we are afforded that rare glimpse into the creative thought process of Orson Welles, often considered to be one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.

After writing, acting in, and directing the film, Welles was abruptly fired from the production after Universal studio execs saw the rough cut and worried its unconventional narrative would tank. What followed was a back and forth struggle over the final cut between Welles and the studio, and resulted in the incredible 58-page memo detailing Welles' editorial notes. While some of his asks were addressed, Universal released its version of the film in 1958. A previously unreleased cut of the film was discovered in 1976 and in 1998, esteemed film editor Walter Murch reconstructed Welles' original vision using his memo as a guide.

In this video, director/editor Joey Scoma compares and contrasts all three versions of TOUCH OF EVIL and shows us how the arduous process of editing pushes and pulls the overarching narrative of a film. Take a page out of this incredible piece of film history and see how even the most minor of edits can act as a powerful storytelling tool.

Special thanks to for being such an incredible resource!


The Orson Welles Memo on "Touch of Evil"

Restoration of "Touch Of Evil" (1958) - Part 1

Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles

Compare and Contrast Edits -- E.T.: Star Wars IV: A New Hope:

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