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How To Edit
Lucy Harris
How to Edit

Structural changes -
Watching small sections repeatedly can be very deceptive, as it’s easy to lose track of how the film as a whole is working together. So, once there is a rough version of the complete film, it’s good to watch it straight through (even if there are gaps/holes), Preferably allow some space between completing a rough cut and viewing it, so that you’re watching it alert and fresh, (and make notes either as watching or after.)

What are you looking for in rough-cut?
Some of the questions I always ask myself:

Are there moments when my mind drifts?
This can be a clue to what sections of the film need particular attention, (moving, cutting down, shots that you’re attached to, but that aren’t working)

What’s the first moment that engages you, where the film feels like it actually ‘starts’?
Is this coming too late? Is the front of the film too ‘loose’ or slow?

What shots/audio/sections work best?
Are they in the best place, so that enough is made of them? Is the tension/ build up helping them or are they too hidden? Placing these shots/sections well can really guide the edit, and sometimes it is even helpful to build the structure around these shots/sections.

How is the timing and pacing working, what’s happening in each ‘quarter ‘of the film?
It can be useful to mentally divide the film into four, and then questions of timing and pacing can be considered across the whole film, and within each ‘quarter’. This can aid the placing of key moments/shots, and also assist with adjusting timings, Deciding on the duration of the film may also be a question at this stage. Rough cut durations should be in the ‘region’ of your final duration i.e. a 10 min film shouldn’t have a 30 min rough cut. It probably means there’s two films there! Walter Murch’s conventional ratio is “an assembly should be no more than thirty percent over the ideal running length of the film”

Be brave with ‘favourite’ shots/sections
Shots/sections that you’re attached to, but that aren’t necessarily helping the rest of the film. Try a cut without them.
You can recognise these shots as sections that you keep re-cutting but which still don’t work.

Responding to these sorts of questions and making notes, can help make decisions about the overall ‘shape’ of the film.

Sometimes drastic structural changes are needed when ideas you imagined working suddenly don’t, but other ideas occur in the process. So don’t be afraid to make changes and try different approaches. For me, there is a turning point when I know what I want the film to do. This doesn’t always mean that it will definitely work, but it often gives the edit a direction and focus that can be worked with.

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