by C. Raboin

  1. The Script. The Writer, the Director and the Editor all tell the story. The Writer creates without restraint. The Director is constrained by the actors’ performance. The Editor is constrained by the footage shot. But the Editor should start with the script, not the footage. The Editor might eventually propose adjustments or radical restructuring, but the starting place should be the script.
  1. Work with the Director of Photography. Labeling and organizing memory cards during the shoot takes a modest effort and will save the Editor enormous amount of time.
    1. With multiple cameras, all cards from the same camera should have the same prefix. Camera 1 should use 101, 102. Camera 2 should use 201, 202. Camera 3 should use 301, 302.
    2. All cameras should change cards at the start of each scene, keeping all of the footage from a scene on the same card, and so the editor will know that Card 113, Card 213, and Card 313 will be the same scene.
    3. Synching clips with the slate or multiple cameras requires discipline. If the camera only rolls once with each slate (or only rolls once for each time action is called) the clip numbers generated by the camera will match the shot numbers on the slate and the clip numbers on other cameras. For this to work – all camera operators need to restrain from rolling without an express instruction to do so – and need to call out when they have rolled a false start. If there’s a false start, the other cameras need to move the shot number forward (by rolling and stopping) and the slate needs to move the number shown forward to get the shot number for all cameras back in synch.
  1. Invest Upfront. Spend the time upfront, watching the footage, organizing it into files, labeling each clip, and taking notes – before any effort is made to cut and paste. In the end, organizing and labelling will both save you time and will be the key to finding the best shot.
  1. An Integrated Edit. A good edit is an integrated edit. Include all that is needed, exclude all that is not. Aggressively delete exposition (walking from here to there) – so much is unnecessary.
  1. Use the Best Footage. Tell the story in the script with the best footage (even if it has issues or gaps). Bad footage rarely makes a good film. Tell the story with the best clips.
  1. Focus on Action. As a good script focuses on action and good acting focuses on action, a good edit focuses on action. The action should drive the edit. The dialogue supports the action.
  1. Murch Says. Select clips based on: emotional impact on the moment; ability to advance the story; rhythm of the moment (six cuts a minute for dialogue; twenty-five cuts a minute for action); eye trace (proper subject or location focus); stage line; and space of action (continuity of position).
  1. Go Unseen. The good editor like the good DP is almost always unseen.
  1. Sound. Get clear and articulate dialogue, find proper levels, add appropriate effects, add appropriate room tone, and add and score composed music – all are exceptionally important – but are consistently neglected. Pay more attention to sound.
  1. Walk Away. It is always best to be able to walk away from finished components or the finished product and come back fresh to give ech component of the edit one final look.