Thursday, June 30, 2016

How to Make a Short Film: Working with Your Editor

Benjamin Capitano (left) and Joseph Holmes (right). Director/editor dream team.
Editors are one of your most important collaborators as a filmmaker trying to make a short film. So how do you work with them well?

A film editor has incredible creative power over the final film product. It’s been said—not inaccurately—that a different editor gives you a different movie. A bad editor can make a good product look cheap and trashy. A talented and skilled editor can make a film look professional and exciting. (Provided you’ve given him or her something to work with; they are not magic. I don’t think. I sometimes wonder. I’ve had some amazing editors.) When you make your short film, you really need to have the good kind. I was blessed to have one of the best, Benjamin Capitano, work with me on my first short film Kelly vs The Philosophers

It's about college students. Fighting philosophers. With textbooks. And dropkicks. 
Here is what I learned on how to help a good editor do his best to give you a great final cut of your short film.

#1. Bring them in at the beginning. This is especially true on a smaller film, the editor is going to have a lot of say in the aesthetic of the film. So it’s good to get them on board and inspired with the vision in the pre-production stages. Ben Capitano doubled as a creative developer and the two of us had a blast going to comic shops and watching Scott Pilgrim vs The World as research. (I swear it was research.)

I'm serious! Debating for hours whether Romona or Knives is better for Scott is critical research for my film!
#2. Give it to them Organized. Once we got all the footage and audio compiled, I dumped it all on Ben like a pile of dirty laundry. Prompting a “uhhhhhh what is this?” to which I naturally replied “But aren’t u majik?” to which Ben calmly played Scotty to my Captain Kirk and told me that he was not a magician and needed to organize the footage in a way he could work with it.

"But, can't you just... I don't know, put all the footage in a sorting hat?"

"...You don't know anything about Final Cut. Do you, Sir."
Ideally, during production, you have the shots you got matched to the shots you wanted in the shot list, and the assistant editor would be responsible for organizing which is which, and you show the editor which shots you want used. But we were all students and this was my first short film so I combed through the footage myself and sent it to Ben. 

I do not miss those days.

#3. Collaborate. In order to do his or her best work, the editor needs to have a little freedom to be creative. However, the director usually has a very particular vision for what he wants. (At least I did.) I learned that there is a balance of give and take with the editor. On the one hand, most of Ben’s ideas were extra-ordinary: from the animated video game text and music, to using the final shot as an end-credits scene. But sometimes there were things I just insisted on doing a certain way. It was a balance learning which was which.

I’ll be honest, when I finished shooting Kelly vs The Philosophers I didn’t know how the film would turn out. When I first saw the edited footage of the film--that was when I knew my baby would be okay. I’m grateful to all the editors who I’ve worked with since. I hope I've been a decent director and learned something. Haha. You have helped make my films what they are.  

Which is awesome. 

Just like you guys.

Movie magic. Some After Effects required.

How about you guys? Do you have any tips working with editors or as an editor you'd like to share? Sound off in the comments below

1 comment:

  1. I'm my own editor, so it was interesting to read your point of view, since you don't dabble in it/it's not ur thing. At least, that's what it sounds like when I read this.