Things Every Young Editor Needs To Know!

By Anshul Joshi. Posted on March 31, 2015

So you've chosen to be an editor.  Well done, young jedi.  Here are some words of advise from an editor who has been in the Indian industry for 9 years.

1. Edit As Many Projects As You Can During Your Media Course

Your colleagues are still learning their craft, as are you.  You will have to work harder on their edits - which is good - you're not just putting wides, mids and closes back to back - you're using your dimaag. Besides, they will give you far more flexibility than you will get in the real world where most of the time you will be crushed between producers, directors, actors, stunt masters, choreographers, the producer's second wife's grandson all trying to get their say in the edit.  So relish the time when your course mates still appreciate you for what you do and what you bring to the table.

2. Edit Alone And Then Together

During the first cut - you should be ideally editing on your own.  You're not an operator - you're an editor.  How can *you* make things interesting? Once you're done show it to the director.  The director / client will have feedback, tweaks, suggestions - incorporate that into the next version of the edit. Don't be possessive about your cut - it's a collaborative art.

3. Theory Will Only Get You So Far - Focus On The Practical Aspect

When the director has forgotten to take a pick up shot, the actors have messed up during a take or there's a continuity mismatch, you don't start thinking about what editing theory you can apply to this situation.  Every film you edit is different and your approach to it will vary.  Know your theory, if you want to, but don't obsess over it.

4. Specialise In Your Edit

"Oh you're an editor?  It must be so much fun putting those little bits of video together."  Yes, it is - but it's a little bit more than that really. Films, documentaries, ads, trailers, TV spots, YouTube videos - and every genre within those large groups have a different style of edit.  You're not going to edit an action film in the same way as a horror film. The workflow for a travel show shot with two cameras is very different from a reality show shot with 32 cameras. A documentary generally has no script and you piece together your story with whatever has been shot. In short, every edit style and edit workflow is different depending on the project. See what sort of edit you are good at naturally and really start honing your skills. (This is some advice I need to follow myself. :))

5. Specialise In Your Edit Software...

"A good editor should be able to work on any editing software".  While that may be true - an editor has to be decently fast with whatever tool he uses.  Once you're in the industry deadlines are insane.  So you had a month to edit the first promo you did in your edit course?  Real world - two days.  I would suggest spending time with all editing suites - whether it's Avid, FCP7, Premiere Pro or heck even FCP X.  See what connects with you best.  What key combinations make sense to you, what interface fits you the best, which workflow do you like.

When you become used to your edit software - you start focusing on the main thing - the edit and not the software.  The client will not care whether you're editing his film on a $4,000 Mac Pro loaded with Avid Media Composer or your $1000 laptop with Premiere Pro.  He cares about his product and how fast you can give it to him.

6. ... But Learn Everything (At Least The Basics)

If you're freelancing most times you will edit on your own setup.  But now let's say, you see this dream job posting on which says - "looking for assistant editor for a feature film - needs to know Avid Media Composer."  If you've followed the advice above - you at least know the basics and you can brush up your skills and apply for the job.  If you haven't then you can just shake your head and say "If only I had followed that nice editor's advice and learnt the Avid as well." Don't sell yourself short.  You're young and capable of absorbing almost anything.

And before you start, check out this video i made sometime back about 'Shit people say to Editors'. Better prepare yourselves. :-)

Live long and prosper!

Anshul Joshi is a freelance editor who makes short films and stuff when he has free time.  You can see some of his work here.


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