Your editor is King

Whether you write, produce, shoot, compose, direct or act your job description really boils down to one thing: give your editor something to work with. Whatever it is you are doing it all comes down to the edit. The last line, the final destination for footage before it is cast out onto the world cased inside cold canisters and broadcast signals.

You generally are not very good at your job until you understand this.

Did you deliver a great performance? Good for you. Did you cross over your co-perfomers lines on a take? Miss an important mark? Sip your drink at the wrong point in the conversation? Improvise? Any of these things could put that one good take in the trash and force your editor to cut around usable footage rather than good performances.

You like to run around with a camera and call yourself a dp? Great. Can you shoot a walking dialogue scene over two days outside and match lighting between your coverage? Can you shoot a five way conversation and only cross the line in a way that keeps the geometry of the scene intact?

Producers just starting out suffer the most from this unknown. I’ve sat in many an edit bay with young or naive producers struggling to get the slightest cohesion out of days and days of shooting. How do we transition out of this scene? Is there an introduction to this scene by the host? Where is ___ cutaway?

People often ask me (especially when I mention working on a reality show) how often I cut interviews and interactions to bring a false meaning out of them. The truth is I do it with every interview I’ve ever edited. A good producer/journalist will give me short concise thoughts from people = good. But most of what I get is forty minutes of “uh’s” and “um’s” that I need to turn around into one sentence that not only ┬ásounds and looks like a real sentence but actually carries the feel and emotion of the hour of footage I started with.

Your editor is not your enemy looking for reasons to make you look bad. They are your artist. Merely collecting the few colors you struggled to capture while shooting and hoping for enough color to create a memorable portrait. When it comes to that last part of the process the energy on the set that day means nothing, the difficulty of achieving that focus pull is forgotten and the writers excitement upon writing that perfect final line is meaningless. What is essential is the greater performances achieved by that high-energy set, the narrative timing of that focus pull and the emotional content of that final line (that may or may not still be at the end of the film).

Film is the most collaborative art form ever realized, just keep in mind that many of your collaborators are not in the room with you while you do your part. The more you can seamlessly do your part in that process the better.

Share Post :