Working With a Professional Editor

I know how to edit. Well, I should say I know Final Cut Pro. Knowing how to use a particular software and knowing how to edit – to tell the story, are two different things. Just like taking a photograph skillfully is more than just knowing how to use a camera.

I have done a relatively decent job editing projects in the past, but nothing has ever been longer than a half hour in length. Nothing has ever been as demanding as what I have been working on over this past year and a half.

After traveling around the world last summer, on a 99-day adventure, shooting a feature length film about people who are making a difference, with just a slim crew (myself and my daughter), and an even slimmer budget, financed with airline miles and hotel rewards, I returned with over 150 hours of footage and 5000 still images.

After a bleak winter of endless days of trying to make sense and order of all my content, I managed to get a very rough storyline down with interview sound bites and do a first cut on the b-roll. But there was a long way to go to get this looking like the film that I imagined in my head. I knew I wanted to work with a professional editor who would not only help me, but also would bring their own vision and craft to the film and most importantly “move the story”.

I’ve been working with Erik Freeland, from Springhouse Films over the past few months and I am simply in awe of what he has brought to the film. I’ve learned so much by collaborating with Erik. Not, little tips and shortcuts in terms of Final Cut but how to tell a story cinematically. I’m beginning to learn about the craft of editing and how the nuances of timing and juxtaposition of clips and interviews can move the story forward – or not.

As a shooter, I’m paying attention to movement in a scene and following the action. An editor looks for just the right part of the action in the clip – and how that clip will juxtapose with another clip. Not only the timing of the action within the clip is important, but also the timing of the duration of the clip itself is critical to the pacing of the film.

Timing is everything in editing – it’s almost like making a musical composition timing and pacing the highs and the lows of the story. In fact a big part of the editing process is integrating the music, adding yet another dimension to weave the viewer in and out of the story. Music is the heart of a film, the emotional backbone. Without music – the film has no heart.

So in a way, a good editor is a mixture between a technician, a storyteller and someone who has rhythm. An interesting combination for sure. It’s been a wonderful experience collaborating with my editor, Erik and I think what has made it work so well is that we have respect for what each other has brought to this project. We have both learned and grown along the way and pushed ourselves creatively. What more can you hope for? That’s the beauty of collaboration.

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3 Replies to “Working With a Professional Editor”

  1. You’re correct about working with a pro that has a fresh eye and perhaps a better skill set. Same advice applies to writing/photography. An editor once told my that editing is easy; Enter (scene) late leave early.

  2. Hi Gail,

    I had the pleasure to hear you speak last December, a talk, about DSLR-movie transition, illustrated partly by clips from your world trip. At that time you said you wanted to make a movie about individuals “making a difference” in wayward parts of the world.

    I wonder how that idea changes as you edit, particularly over a longish time period. How much does the story evolve by changes in your thought processes or be tempered by the reality of the actual footage that you have in your hand, so as to speak?

    Do you progress along one storyline, or at least be thinking of alternative end results to suit a particular audience once you realize the film has perhaps more merit than you originally anticipated?

    Really enjoy your blog, inspiring on so many levels.


  3. Hi Paul,

    Interesting questions. I think as I progressed through the process of creating this film, the biggest transformation for me was when I read the book “Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder. I learned a lot about arcing a story.
    After reading that book, it became clear to me that I needed to unify the 11 stories that I had filmed into one theme and circling around a “hero” – meaning one person and their story that would be an anchor in the film.
    As far as tailoring it for different audiences – great question? I have always seen this as a feature length documentary, however I have also seen the possibilities of independent stories running in a series – but that would be geared more for a TV audience.

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