Editors and Shortcut Artists

It seems to me that editing takes place more in the mind of the editor than by dragging clips around a piece of software. The ability to think about the footage available to you in an abstract way is just as important, if not more so, than the ability to select shots from footage. For example, if you have a scene of two people talking, but want to disguise the location for a reveal at a certain point in the dialogue, you would hold back from using the wide shot of the scene and play it only in close-ups until that moment. That’s a very basic and obvious example, but it illustrates that editors are thinkers first and machine operators second.

Editors have a great advantage in the filmmaking process in that they don’t know what the director is thinking. Editors don’t see how long it took to set up a shot, and they shouldn’t. Emotional attachment to any particular shot can easily compromise what is best for the story. A good editor will look at the footage and show the director their way of playing the scene. Sometimes the director will have a very clear vision that the scene needs to be a certain way, but the best directors welcome another point of view, another idea, as a natural part of the process. That way the director becomes an ideas filter, cherry-picking the best ideas and jettisoning the weak ones.

It’s also important to note that editors should be willing to try other things too. In the creative process, egos should be put aside. The focus should be 100% on telling the story in the best way possible.

Editors don’t mind notes, in fact we encourage them because that is collaboration and the best collaborations result in the better videos. What neither side of the process wants or needs is someone who will just do what they’re told, however fast they may do it. It’s a waste of money because you may as well do it yourself. If an editor isn’t thinking about the video and how to improve it, they’re not worth the time of day. If all your editor does, is function as a human interface for an edit suite, you’re wasting your time and money. It’s not difficult to learn to use editing software, and it’s not expensive any more either.

Editors want to collaborate, they want to be creative and they want to be involved. That’s the difference between an editor and a shortcut artist.