A great editor is a filmmaker's best friend. Simply put, an editor's job is to take everything that was captured in camera for a particular project and piece it together to tell the story. But don't be fooled! There's a lot more to editing than splicing – err – clicking-and-dragging clips into a timeline! A good editor understands the essence of the narrative's drama and selects which parts to use to complete the whole.
When you're planning your next shoot, set your editor up for success by getting as much coverage as possible. What do I mean by coverage? Well, shoot the scene or interview in as many ways as you think might be useful for your story. Cover the scene from different angles, distances, and perspectives so that your editor has choices to make. The more choices you can provide, the better off your film will ultimately be.
Allow our pals from Framelines TV to elaborate:
*P***Pro tip:** Keep your resources (cast, crew, equipment, time spent in your friend's cousin's father-in-law's restaurant) in mind when deciding whether or not to do "just one more" take of a certain shot. Unless you're offering serious bill$, you don't need to get all David Fincher on people.
Beyond shooting enough coverage to allow for choices in post, it's important to think carefully about the details that will help you tell your story visually. A great example is found in the first minute of Paul Briganti's "Speechless," where, with a cutaway shot of Sandy grabbing Dan's hands to teasingly read his palms, followed by Dan's subtle reaction, we realize that there is an unspoken romance weighing down one side of this friendship. It's a simple two-second shot that the filmmakers decided to grab before they wrapped, but it sets the story's entire conflict in motion.
If you're making a non-fiction piece, take notes from the folks at Variable – particularly their short "Get Old" Hy Snell, 94". Told mostly with B-roll laid over Hy's inspiring voiceover, the film flows rhythmically and beautifully. What's more, if you pay close attention, you'll see that the filmmakers captured Hy discussing his determination to paint as long as he can in seven unique ways: two different close-ups, a medium-shot, a medium-long shot, two separate shots of him talking while he paints, and an extreme low-angle shot used to end the film. That's a lot of work for a three minute piece, but hey, it got our Staff's attention.
At the end of the (shoot) day, coverage provides you options to weave together the best film possible, and cutaways are quick, powerful punches to help you tell your story visually. Planning for both will ultimately make your film more dynamic and engaging for your viewers.
Until next time, friends!