We’re cooking up some new stuff here at Editmentor. In exchange for a couple clicks from you, we’re dropping some knowledge in today’s post that you very well may not be able to find anywhere else. There’s a whole world of things I (Jeff) and my people here in Hollywood could talk about and demonstrate – but you know what? It doesn’t mean squat unless it speaks to YOU. What are YOU into?
We’ve come up with three potential subjects that we could talk about for AGES. I’ll be talking about the general idea of each one plus specific technique or information that will give you the flavor for each subject. Then just click on our fancy little poll thing to let us know what you think – including ideas of your own – and you can even find out what other people think too.
We give YOU some tasty knowledge, and YOU tell US which idea you like best. Deal?
Here we go.
Idea #1: The Feel of Editing – specific, rarely discussed techniques that help edits work.
I remember when I was an assistant editor at my first tv show in Hollywood (Blind Date, for the record). My boss was talking about one of the editors at the show. “Peter’s edits are like butter. They’re so smooth, all the time.” He obviously saw that as a very complimentary thing, and I wondered how I could become an editor with sequences that “played like butter.” Years later, I can say that I achieve that goal regularly. And that’s not just my own opinion – I can’t tell you how many times in recent years producers have said “this section just doesn’t work, could you just make it better?” or “just take a pass and give it some love” or some variation of “Jeff, just make it feel right.”
The feel. It all comes down to the feel.
How do you make your sequences FEEL RIGHT? That’s something that takes a whole career to master. And the concepts behind cutting a 5-minute scripted, multi-take scene compared to cutting a 20-second high-energy promo are WORLDS apart. And I am telling you, just because an editor can cut a scripted scene does NOT mean they can cut a promo. And vice versa – I see it CONSTANTLY.
I have to narrow this down for any advice to make sense… so here’s one idea behind cutting a scripted scene with a conversation between two or more characters – focus less on what’s being said and more on the REACTION to what is being said. Reactions often shape the story more than words do. And while the viewer sometimes knows what the person reacting is thinking, often the viewer doesn’t know. Sometimes the viewer isn’t sure, sometimes the viewer gets tricked. Either way, the viewer is MUCH more likely to get sucked into a scene based on a meaningful reaction than just a random line. So choose your reaction shots carefully, and make them MEAN something.
Well-chosen reactions in a scripted scene will go a long way in making the scene feel right.
Idea #2: The Hidden Secrets of Music Editing – why they’re critical to telling your story powerfully.
Back to my early days assistant editing at Blind Date – I was stoked when I was given my first full segment to edit. One thing I didn’t feel confident with: cutting the music. On asking someone how to do it, I was told, “Oh, that’s easy. You just put it in.”
Errr… not helping.
Now bear in mind, I am a lifelong musician. I’ve played piano by ear AND by reading music since the age of 4, played French horn all through junior and high school, and I was a music composition major in college. And I still had no clue how to approach music editing when I got to Hollywood.
Since then, I’ve become known by producers and executives for my use of music. And it’s largely because of my lifelong love of music ended up pushing me to make it a more integral part of my editing, mostly by figuring things out myself – rarely did anyone ever tell me anything about it. I’d be willing to bet it’s the same thing for you too.
Here’s just one overarching idea when it comes to music: music is far too often treated like wallpaper – it just sits there and does nothing, or just barely justifies its existence. If you or your client/producer/director ever says “just put music in, doesn’t matter what” – you are asking for your piece to be mediocre. Instead, treat the music in your edits as a full character, every bit as much as the people who actually speak on camera. Give it room to announce itself when it’s changing the topic of conversation. Let it be the off-screen character that reacts to the characters on-screen. Let it be the force that creates, reflects, and amplifies whatever energy it brings. And this applies equally to a $200M blockbuster, to your mash-up videos on YouTube, and everything in between.
Treating music as a full character instead of wallpaper will go miles towards increasing the power of your communication.
Idea #3: Philosophies of Life and Editing in Hollywood
I offer this category because, frankly, it’s the most viewed category of posts on this blog. Now granted, I’ve also written a number of posts in this category, so it may be a self-fulfilling thing, who knows. Instead of opening up a new conversation on this, I’ll mention some of the top posts on the subject:
• Why film degrees aren’t the point – engaging with people and taking action in your life is.
• Why it makes no difference what software you use to edit – they’re all merely tools, and your mind does the editing.
• Why your editing will stand out when you bring Your Art to the table, whether the project is meant to be Art or not.
So there you have it, three big-picture ideas. Which holds the most interest for you? Tell us by clicking on the survey. And if you’re more interested in something beyond these three, write your idea in.
If you haven’t already done so, click your choice on the survey. Do it now!