While I was teaching editing at USC, I discovered I had a
few rules about film editing. Here are the two big ones:
1) FACE FACTS. Pay attention the first time you review a cut,
and if it doesn’t work, face facts: it doesn’t work.
2) DON’T BE LAZY. If it doesn’t work, it means you have to
fix it. So fix it.
Working with the director: You may disagree, even vehemently
disagree, with her direction, but you must put all your
effort into proving she is right. Don’t spend your time trying
to prove you are right. Number one, it’s not your film, and
number two, she could be right. It happens, no matter what
your ego says. Also – take note – you don’t want to wind up
on the curb like a cartoon hobo, sharpies and sandwich tied
up in a hankie. Remembering always that it’s more like
basketball than gymnastics.
It is, in other words, a team sport.
Don’t fuss too much as you begin work on a sequence: at the
beginning be fearless and bold. later – fussy. Crazy-fussy if
need be. But at the beginning slash through the jungle with
your machete like a wild man in the jungle looking for
Value clarity over elegance, the elegant over the obvious,
the simple over the coy.
Keep the audience with you the whole darn time: There should
always be eyes in back of you, lurking, watching the show,
are they getting it? Are they “reaching for the remote?”
Are they drawn in? And by the way, they’re smart,
roughly the same smart as you, and that they laugh
and wink and doze sometimes, just like you, and they turned
to the screen because they want to have some fun, and if
they’re moved to thought or feeling, so much the better.
Share your process with the rest of the team: Holding back
only things they don’t need to know, for instance how
infernally difficult it was to make the damn soapbox fly.
They don’t need to know your tricks, keep your tricks
to yourself, you know what I’m talking about. Also, no body
really needs to know what a challenge it was, and what a
miracle that you succeeded. Hey, try shooting a bow
and arrow with your toes.
Criticize the cinematographer (and the sound recordist,
the actors, the intern, the EP, the consultant, and all the
rest) all you want, but only when you’re alone in your little
monk’s cell. Curse as little as possible. Remember, even
the cameraman is a child of God. You might try, while
you’re at it, to offer the occasional compliment to others,
when possible, even on those muggy afternoons when you’re
starving for just one “hey, cool” and there’s nobody there
but you and the lampshade.
Keep the editing room pleasant and tidy. Water the plant,
throw away the paper cups and take-out trays – remember,
“As is your room, so is your mind.”