Editing is a creative skill that takes practice. Although it’s something necessary for every film it can often be underrated and especially on a student film it isn’t well thought out.

This is why I felt it would be appropriate to go over 5 mistakes made by rookie editors.

Little / no organisation
Once we finish shooting the first thing we do is dump the footage onto the computer so we can start with the edit. However, rather than naming each individual clip and putting it in its designated folder, the easiest thing to do right there and then is to throw it all into the editing program we’re using and start editing.

Organise! Watch over your footage at least once, maybe even twice, to, first of all, get an idea of what you have, and then name the clips. ie. “21a_3 Cam A WS of H, N”. This is one way, but name them in a way you and/or your editor will understand them and be able to find the clips quickly.

Then, place the clips into individual scene folders. This process may take a while and for some people, it can be tedious. It will save you hours in the long run so it’s worth it. When it comes to editing you won’t have to constantly sift through the footage, you’ll be able to find a specific clip straight away because it was organised properly.

Bad workflow
Once you begin editing, there’s a process you’d want to follow. Many people want to make the first the final cut. They want to make it perfect right from the beginning. NO.

Start with the rough cut. This is where you put all of your clips into order regardless of how good it looks or flows. Just put it there. 

After this you then start cutting down and trimming so you can actually figure out what’s working and what isn’t, what flows and what doesn’t flow.

After you’re happy with the edit, you then work on the audio editing and equalisation. You also do the colour corrections necessary to tell the story.

Hard cuts. No J and L cuts or smooth transitions
A perfect example of this is when you’re cutting together a conversation, the easiest thing to do is simply cut to whoever’s talking at the exact moment they begin. This isn’t natural.

This is jarring and pulls the audience out of the story. To make these cuts smoother we can use what are called J and L cuts. A J cut is when the audio of the next shot is heard before we see it. An L cut is when the audio from the first shot flows into the next. 

When you see these displayed in the edit, they literally look like J’s and L’s. These help smooth over the transitions and feel so much more natural. 

In real life, if you find yourself in a group discussion, you won’t immediately turn to the person talking right as they start talking, you hear them first and then you’ll turn, editing in this way shows the audience what they would normally do in real life.

NO ability to kill babies.
This sounds horrible. Don’t worry, I’m not saying you literally need to kill a child because that is murder and you’ll go to jail forever.

Essentially a baby is something you love and can’t bear to get rid of even when it doesn’t help tell the story in any way. Many new editors are stubborn and want everything they filmed put into the final cut making a five-minute short film last twelve minutes.

It’s so long and boring and the audience loses interest, so no matter how cool a particular shot or scene looks, or how much time and money went into creating said shot, if it doesn’t work for the overall story, cut it. 

Your audience won’t care about it. They want the story to make sense to them.

Lack of awareness for colour and audio
As mentioned before the colour and audio should be a part of the workflow process, but they aren’t always seen as a necessary element to the edit. Well, they are. They both tell the story in their own ways and it’s worth spending time on them.

Editing is sometimes hard and tedious, and can take hours upon hours. However, like everything else, the more you practice the faster you get at it and the more natural it feels. 

Editing is more than splicing together clips and putting them in order, it’s equal parts logical and creative and the last opportunity you have to rewrite your story so take the time because it’s worth it.


  • 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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