Editing your film, one of the most important filmmaking skills

Editing your film, one of the most important filmmaking skills

At this moment,  I am editing Tabernacle 101, our 110 minute supernatural thriller movie. I am up at 5am every morning and edit to about 11am and in that time I edit about 1 – 2 scenes per day. There are 150 scenes in the movie, so I expect to complete the first cut during the first two weeks of July.

As I have edited films for over 25 years now and started on steanback flat tables back in the day, I would like to help you with some important advise with editing.

There is quick editing and there is slow editing. Rarely is quick editing any good. On my film courses, I always do my very best to teach, up and coming filmmakers to slow down.  Be fastidious and detailed with their edits and the result will be so much better.

Watch every single take and every single shot that you have shot listed for your scene. Mark off the good sections of each take and you can type in comments for later. When I watch my coverage, I am looking for the best performance from my actors. Therefore as I watch the raw footage,  I am detailing what is best for the edit. I usually have 8 – 10 shots per scene with an average of 4 – 8 takes per shot. That means I usually detail 40 – 50 clips per scene.  That takes about an hour to an hour and a half to watch.

A slow editor watches and details every single clip. A fast editor takes short cuts and cherry picks takes. There is an impatience to get the edit completed. This leads to a poor cut. So slow down and watch every single take and every single clip that you have shot. I type in comments on the best takes so I will know later what is best for the edit.

I enjoy the process of editing the film and take my time. I know, the awards are later with the best possible cut of the film. It may take me an hour to an hour and half to watch every clip. The rule is that I spend as long as it takes.

Once I have watched every single take, I have a  coffee break for 15 minutes.  I need this break to let all of the takes I have watched sink in to my unconsoicous mind.

Then I start to edit. Often the first couple of cuts are the most challenging. Once the cut gets going, a certain rythm sets in and editing comes effortless and fluid. I compare this to a musiscian composing music or a cook creating a great dish.  This is where talent and practice combine to make a great cut.

Often I will have side by sides to make sure that I get the best performance.  A side by side is placing Take 1  , 2  ,3 and  4 side by side on the sequence  to see which is the best performance for that line. It is so easy to see the best performance when you see the same line said four different ways. I pick the best one.

When I do this as the director of the film, I am doing the actor and the film a great service  . Eventually 45 minutes to an hour  or so later I have  a very good cut of the scene.

In low budget filmmaking, editing is a really important skill to learn. You can find a professional editor to edit your film and if time is important this is quicker than learning on your own.

Make sure you work closely with your editor and watch every single take and makes sure that he or she marks off the clips with your thoughts on performance and the takes. Back in the day, we used to have rushes screenings every night after shooting where this process would happen with the editor. I have noticed that at the low budget end of filmmaking, this rarely happens these days.

How does one learn film editing?  First find the best editing software. At International Film Base, we recommend Adobe Premiere Pro. Google it. It usually comes as part of a package called Adobe Premiere Pro CC

They have excellent video tutorials. online and one can learn film editing on their own. This of course is the hard way. I honestly recommend that you learn filmmaking on a reputable film course and learn how to shoot a scene and then how to edit a film by actually doing it on a film course.   On our 3 Month Film Courses we do have post production covered. We have also edit coaches whereby you hire an edit coach to teach you one one one editing. This is the best way of all to learn editing. One can learn the software and editing skills quickly this way. Edit coaching is open to people who have graduated from our 3 month film courses.

Editing is fun but learning how to edit can be  a challenge. Practice makes perfect and the more you actually edit your films, the better you will get.

Till next time, all the very best with your filmmaking ambition

Colm O ‘ Murchu – Director

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