Make the Editor Happy

Have you ever been an actor on a film set but wondered why in the end your character saw very little screen time?

Have you ever noticed the same thing happen to some of your favourite characters in films adapted from a book?

This article is for those of you who love acting but aren’t sure what to do when it comes to hoping for more exposure in the end.

Something that goes unseen in the film world is that an actor may have spent weeks or months investing into their character but what ends up on screen might only be a few minutes. There are several different reasons for this:

  1. The character and their performance was extremely complicated, ie. Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic thunder: An American playing an Australian playing an African American – so it would require much time and effort behind the scenes to go into making that character come to life.
  2. Although the character was a huge part of the story the film simply had to be cut down due to time constraints.
  3. The actor playing that character did not give that character justice. (Let’s just say RD. jr. ended up doing a horrible job as Kirk Lazarus in Tropic Thunder so the director / producers decided to use less of his character in the final cut than what was originally planned.) This is not always the case but it does happen, especially on lower budget films where they may not have the money to reshoot those scenes.

What ends up on screen is about 1% of what was actually filmed.

As a film editor, I see EVERYTHING. I see the good performances, and I most definitely see the bad ones. It is my job to find the best parts under the vision of the director and form the story into the best it can possibly be.

The following are three simple things that would make my life, as the editor, easier.

1. Be teachable.

If the director is happy then ultimately so is the editor. Having a teachable, serving attitude on set and working with the director on their vision will make the post production process smoother. Your own interpretation of your character may be different to what the director wants so be open to their vision. Once production is over, my job is just beginning so if the director is happy with your performance on set then my job is made that much easier.

2. Listen.

Acting is listening. When you get into the shoes of your character and focus on their goal (living truthfully under imaginary circumstances) then the ‘performance’ you give comes from a real place. As the editor I may even cut to your character more when you are just listening. Your character might not actually be saying anything but they are still being real.

3. Be Consistent.

Consistency is an editor’s best friend. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay true to your character, but when you hold your cell phone in a different hand every take it becomes 5 times more difficult to cut together those takes. On set, the script supervisor is in charge of continuity, which makes them the editor’s representative, so when the notes they make regarding these issues come to you, please take them seriously. The editor will love you for it.

All of these things can make the editor happy, since he has the freedom to use the performances you give…or not.

One more thing. If you’re an extra, plleeeeaase do not try to steal the spotlight. Please refrain from ‘not putting in 100% because you’re part isn’t big enough for you’. If you actually act the way your character would in real life, even though you are just an extra and probably won’t even be seen for more than half a second then there is still a much better chance you will find yourself in the final cut. Believe me, it’s very easy to spot, and cut out the extras who just want their face to be seen on screen.

You cannot control what the end product looks like, but what you can control is your attitude, and giving a truthful and consistent performance.


  • Jay Evans


    Jay Evans has spent the last 8 years working as a film editor, 4 of which have been with The Initiative Production Company. In his spare time he enjoys music, comedy, experimental cooking and getting lost in the woods.

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