Filming on a Tiny Budget, Part 5: Editing

Editing is the man behind the curtain.

You may have fantastic actors and a great story. A mediocre editor can still leave you with a boring, cliched, trite piece of crap.

Editors hold the reins to the entire story:

  • They choose the pacing and the mood it creates
  • They ensure the audience can follow the story line
  • They choose stylization to reflect the narrative.

A good editor will change the way your audience digests the visual and audio information for the better. A great editor will do all of this without the audience even noticing. 

Vest Power Wisely

Obviously, you want someone with a sharp eye and atnettoin to dteial who knows their way around Final Cut Pro/Adobe Premiere/whatever other programs. But you also need an editor who understands the story you want to tell.

Your editor must:

  • Know the style you’re going for
  • Know the emotional level you want
  • Subtly deliver essential subtext and nuance

Meet with them at length before you hand any footage over. If possible, have them on-set to help you shoot for the edit.

Shoot for the Edit

Give your editor the tools he needs to realize your majestic film:

1) Get all the shots you’ll need to tell the complete story, as it is written in the script.

2) Additionally, shoot alternative takes, angles, and cutaway materials for your editor to work with.

Shooting additional material beyond what is in the script lets your actors to add their own twists to their characters. (This is a good thing.) It also gives your editor a lot of flexibility as he helps the audience navigate through the plot.

Episodic Structure/Anachronic Order

Even if your script was written in a linear timeline, it may help to jump around a bit in time, to help emphasize key aspects of the story. A good editor will be able to do this subtly. This process is known as Anachronic Order, or, “jumping around a bit in time,” as I like to call it.

In creating an episodic structure, your audience is simultaneously taken through multiple story lines that are connected thematically, using juxtaposition.

A good example of this method in cinema is Crash. Each character’s story, while separate, bled into one another, bound together by a common theme. This techniques provides a cumulative effect of events and  holds the audience in anticipation throughout.

A Good Editor is Hard to Come By 

A great editor can make the final cut of your piece even better than the sum of its parts. Often great directors will work with the same editor(s) for decades. This is the person who finally realizes your dream. It’s worth searching far and wide for the best editor you can get.


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