The fourth part of our free series of books on filmmaking is now published. It focuses on an area of filmmaking that’s easily overlooked, but is perhaps the most important part of the whole process - editing.
The popular perception of films is that they’re a creative collaboration between the director, the writer and the actors. It’s the director who always gets the credit for how a film turns out – or gets blamed if it’s a box office flop. Most aspiring filmmakers dream of being directors, because they want the creative control that directing seems to offer.
But it’s not the director who makes the film that the audience actually sees. The director decides what to shoot and tells his actors and crew what to do. It’s the editor who assembles everything into a completed movie – the footage, the sounds, the special effects, the titles and credits and anything else. In the editing stage, the pace of the story can be changed completely, and even the story-telling structure can be switched around to put emphasis on different characters or reveal key plot points in a different structure. Scenes can be removed to keep the story moving, and some of the director’s best work can end up as nothing more than a DVD extra. In extreme cases, editing can sometimes result in a film that’s very different to what the director intended – as a great example of what an editor can do with your carefully filmed footage, check out Scary Mary, the recut trailer for Disney’s Mary Poppins. Skilful editing turns this classic family movie into a horror movie.
As a director, you need to understand the editing process instinctively. Working closely with your editor is key to a successful creative team. You have to remember that everything you film is just raw material for your editor – it’s just a stage in the process. In pre-production, you need to think about how your film will be edited. If you can previsualize your film and make an animatic, this can help immensely. Not only can you plan out your shots, but you will also be in a position to check the timing, pacing, sound, movement, and more.
This volume covers a range of common editing techniques, and provides exercises which help you think about different ways of cutting the same film. They will help you develop a sense of what you as a director have to do to make the editor’s job easier, and to ensure that you are giving the editor what they need to create the film you envisage.
With live action film, you often find yourself making creative compromises when the footage you shot turns out not to be quite right. Reshoots are expensive, usually prohibitively so, and you’re forced to work with whatever you have. Using Moviestorm makes it easy to go back and forth between all stages of the film, so it’s easy to adjust anything that doesn’t work once it’s been in final edit. You can see how a scene turns out, and if you think you can do better, you can quickly make changes to the camerawork, the staging, or anything else, and try it again.