After a movie is filmed, the creative process continues.

It doesn’t take a genius to know there’s hundreds, even thousands of hours, manpower, money, blood, sweat, tears that go into post production of a film. If you’re a good editor you already know this. If you’re bad editor…you already know this.

Hello. My name is Jay, and I’m a serial movie editor.

I’ve learnt different tricks over the years: what to do, and certainly what not to do. The first thing I’ll say is this: in order to be noticed for your work, all you need to do is be a terrible editor.

When an average person watches a film, the last thing they should notice is anything technical, which includes the edit. Usually if a cut is bad, or the general ‘scene-to-scene’ arc of the story feels weird, then it’s most likely due to poor editing choices.

(See Suicide Squad)

So, if you want to be noticed for you work, the following are some simple steps to follow.

1. The opening shot is not important.

The opening shot will only improve your story as a whole and will give the audience an idea of what they’re in for. However, what more fun can one have when confusing their audiences right from the start.

2. Each scene should not have its own beginning, middle and end.

(Not so) Recently I went to watch a university stage production (written and performed by the students themselves) because one of my friends was in it. (She was the best part.)

It was a compilation of shorts full of hyphenated dialogue where everyone was constantly interrupting each other, which was not a bad thing, but I guess they decided to incorporate this technique into the overarching story.

Each scene almost interrupted the one before it, resulting in a list of stories with a beginning and middle, but no end.

Every short got you either hooked or confused but didn’t really go anywhere and so by the end I was left unsatisfied.

3. J and L cuts are lame

J and L cuts are a simple way of smoothing out dialogue between each shot. It’s where the dialogue from the next shot begins before we see the visuals, or continues from the last shot. When you see this on an editing program it literally looks like a ‘J’ or an L’.

Without any of these cuts your audience is sure to get a jarring feeling between every single shot. It may not be noticeable what is actually wrong but definitely won’t feel right.

4. Stay true to your own ideas.

The directors opinion isn’t relevant because they don’t understand your pain like you do.

You’ve seen all the footage. You’ve had to sit there for hours picking and choosing the right clips to fit together and have basically performed miracles. The director’s vision has become an inconvenience to your hard work.

Standing your ground, sticking to your own vision and disagreeing with the director is a crucial part of the process to being a terrible editor. He may even recommend you to no one when the movie’s finished.

5. Don’t organise or name your footage.

Complete waste of time. You must get straight into your work. I definitely should not have put this point first.

6. Don’t watch the entire movie after the rough cut.

A great way to ensure the story doesn’t make sense as a whole is to not watch the whole thing after the rough cut is complete. What could be simpler than not doing something? Like if I was to not proofread this article then I might have forgotten I copied, pasted and reworded this paragraph somewhere else.

7. Never practice

The only real way to get good at editing is simply through practice, so don’t practice. Don’t edit.

Obviously do the opposite of what I said up until now.

Be organised. Choose your shots wisely. Tell a story. Use J and L cuts. Be humble, listen to the direction, even if it makes you want to shoot someone. Keep editing.

A great way to ensure the story makes sense as a whole is to watch the whole thing after the rough cut is complete. What could be simpler than not doing something? Like if I was to not proofread this article then I might have forgotten I copied and pasted this paragraph from somewhere else and reworded it.

These are actually all pretty common parts of the editing process, but I even forget most of them from time to time (especially the staying humble part).

If you want to tell great stories and know how to make movies through editing, then these small, yet effective rules will help you rather than hinder the creative process.

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  • Jay Evans

    Editor

    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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