Attention Directors and Agencies: This is How to Get the Most Out of Your Editor

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At their core, editors are expert storytellers and problem solvers, and that involves a lot more than just knowing how to use Avid or Premiere Pro. A good editor is a creative partner to the directors and agencies they work with, helping them tell the best story possible – from visuals to sound and narrative structure. In other words, directors and agencies get better results when they utilize the full potential of their editors, rather than seeing them only as a tool to be used inside the edit suite.

Here are some tips for re-thinking your working relationship with your editor that could result in better work.

Involve them in the writing and planning process. 

If you want to maximize your relationship, get them involved early in the pre-production process by getting their input on the treatment and the storyboard. Do you have jump cuts in mind? Are you looking for a way to heighten a comedic scene? A good editor can give you guidance from the very start that can inform how you plan to shoot, thus saving you the time and stress of figuring it out in the moment on set. A recent example of this was when I was sitting in a grade at Framestore with director Anh Vu; we had just finished editing her latest project and we started discussing ideas for her next treatment, where I helped with references, as well as ideas with transitions. We also spent a few hours going through the storyboards, adding reaction shots and discussing how to improve scenes. The director has the ultimate say, and of course they pick and choose your input, but it’s nice for them to be able to run ideas by a like-minded creative. We are problem solvers for a living – utilize us.

Bring them to the shoot. 

It’s the end of the day on set. You have one hour of light left and three setups to go. You need a miracle, and your editor can be just that. They can tell you which shot you definitely need to tell the story, and could have ideas for combining two shots to save time. Throughout the day, they can spot possible issues early on, make suggestions to streamline the process and help answer questions. All in all, an editor is often a calming voice as they are still a step back from the frontline.

Let them help you tell the story. 

The tools we use will always change, but the factors that make a good story don’t. As new mediums such as VR and AR emerge, new challenges are arising for directors who need to find new ways to tell stories in largely uncharted territory. This is where a good editor can be invaluable, drawing on years of challenges and successes to find new paths to telling the best possible story.

Give them time and space to experiment. 

Budgets are tight and timelines are short. The Buchanan’s job with Anh was shooting with two units in Barcelona over four days. Slingshot (a high-speed file/dailies transmission service) was a lifesaver in getting the footage early on, so I got the chance to see every frame of footage and had a solid base to experiment from before Anh joined me in the edit. She thinks early collaboration is the best because even while shooting, she too is constantly editing.

“While shooting, I’m constantly editing in my head and thinking about what Alex and I have spoken about in the Pre-Production process. I think about how he would react to certain shots and what he may need to make the piece better. We always feel like we’re on the same wavelength, which streamlines my work process,” she said.​

Case in point, the editing process takes time, so give your editor time to digest the footage and to play around with it on their own. They will bring a valuable, fresh perspective on the story you’re creating.

Leverage their musical knowledge. 

Whether you’re working with a music supervisor, or have a musical vision all your own, an editor understands how to use music to heighten emotion in a scene. Most experienced editors have a vast musical knowledge from years of putting music to picture, so it’s yet another chance to get a fresh perspective from another creative mind.

Keep an open mind. 

Of course, you need to be mindful of client expectations, but you also need to find space to experiment with ideas to create the best possible narrative. Explore all the options together with your editor. We all want the best film, so put collaboration and trust at the forefront, and really utilize the people you hired as specialists in their fields.

So, the next time you have a script or campaign treatment in hand, take these suggestions into consideration. Hopefully it will maximize your creative relationship with your editor.

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