‘Cutting’ Your Film [Editing in a Nutshell]

It used to be that editors got giant reels of ‘film’ from the day’s shoot delivered to their dark little rooms. They would then watch it all, and literally cut it into pieces, before gluing it back together in an order that would become ‘the movie’. That’s why we sometimes refer to editing as ‘cutting’.

Then film changed to ‘tape’ [for TV and semi-pros], and then tape turned into files [computer code- ones & zeroes]. Digital Non-Linear Editing [NLE] made the editing process about a billion times easier and faster, but the part about cutting it apart and gluing it back together pretty much stayed the same, if only metaphorically.

When I interview ‘Film & TV University Program’ interns, the subject eventually gets around to post-production. The prospective intern then makes a list of the editing programs they have been trained on. But I’m not very interested in that; I want to know if they have i] an ability to communicate ii] creative problem solving skills and most importantly iii] a sense of story. They say yes to all of this, because they want the summer gig. And I usually take them on, because I just want to get back to work, and at least they showed up for the interview. SCENE!

My point here is that the technical part of editing is not the most important part. The most important part of editing is getting an intern to do all that for you [Rim-Shot?].

Take 2: The important part- the part that will get you hired and/or help you make better movies is being able to take all the film elements and make a super-cool movie. And here’s the good news: YOU ALREADY HAVE MOST OF THE SKILLS YOU NEED TO DO THIS.

You already have the skills because you have watched about a million hours of Movies, TV, Commercials, and Music Videos. While you thought you were just chilling with your baby [i.e. your screen], your brain was learning how to edit: pace, rhythm, reaction shot, punch line, etc. NOW you just have to access all that knowledge and apply it to your own movie. You just need to concentrate & work at it until that internalized knowledge mysteriously comes to you…LIKE IT WOULD COME TO A JEDI KNIGHT!

INSERT: Editing Room Montage
i] Falling asleep on keyboard ii] Great dream about how your movie should finish iii] Disastrous wake-up coffee spill on keyboard iii] 3am trip to ‘24HR Tech Shoppe’ for new keyboard iv] Frantic editing to make film contest deadline v] 1st Place acceptance speech on stage vi] 2nd ‘real’ wakeup, followed 9 hours of focused editing to finish film.
[N.B. get locked-off shot of subject entering store at night time, and get intern to super–impose ‘24HR Tech Shoppe’ over 7-11 sign in post-production].

So, to Review:
1. Editing is ‘technically’ much easier now than when your Grandpa did it.

2. The real skills and talents of editing are still the same as in Grandpa’s time, and they don’t come from Adobe [TM].

3. You already have most of the powers you need to do great editing because you spend 10 billion hours a day watching your screens. You just need to work on your film until The Force emerges from within you!

Cut well, young Jedi….

Brian G. Smith is the creative director of the type 1 diabetes Video Festival 2017.