The Editor Counselor

When I meet new people usually I am the first editor they ever met. I often have to clarify I am a video editor and not an editor for writers. I find it fascinating that years later they have become video editors too. Because I am the first they ever met working in the profession, I often receive calls in the middle of the night with emergency editing issues. I’ve even met new editors here on my blog through email with not just technical questions but about becoming an editor.

The conversation usually end up going deeper than editing. We talk about freelancing, self confidences and how to deal with current work situations. My heart goes out to them when I hear about their client who is paying them very little. When working freelance we have to use our best judgement but even more important we have to learn how to talk business with confidence. Over the years dealing with all types of people for all different types of projects, I’ve gotten better at making deals where everyone leaves happy.

Communication upfront is KEY! Making the price clear, how payments will be made, due date, final format and vision. So many problems come up when things aren’t clear.

Know your worth – Before you are caught off guard with someone asking you how much you charge, know their expectations. Ask questions about the person’s budget to see what you can give them for what they want to pay. Work out the amount of hours something takes and add some padding. Usually a project will take longer than you think. Under bidding is the worse, so try to over estimate how long it will take. Ask if you can talk at a later time when you have a better idea on what you might charge.

When Free is okay – There is a time and place to do free work. Its usually when you are still a “student”. You should no longer be free after two years of editing. There is always a ton of free work out there! Its the paid jobs that you want. Once someone has you for free, they will tell their friends and family you are happy to do work for them for nothing. Watch your editing reputation. I often hear people say, “She’s good but expensive”. If you want your project done well and on time, I am your girl and yes it will cost you.

Put it in writing! – I once heard, if its not in writing it didn’t happen. Write contracts to cover your back. Send invoices with details of what the clients are paying for and receiving. Include text about extra cost for revisions, etc. Keep in mind of duplicating, dvd’s, and even hard drive space. It all depends how big your project will be.

Make sure they have money – If you have a feeling a client doesn’t have much money, don’t risk doing business with them. I once did a job where I over heard a conversation that things were tight. I should have asked if the project was something they could afford. I completed the project and never got paid. The client said he wasn’t happy with it and not willing to do revisions to fix things. I didn’t have anything in writing, I was too shy to talk business and I wasted my time and effort.

Beware of the difficult cheap client – There will always be that client that is very picky and cheap. Do business with them at your risk but know this person will try to get the most out of you for very little money in return. If you pick up that the client is going to be difficult, over bid the job to turn them off. If they are willing to pay, well then maybe it will be worth it after all.

Deal with the issues and move on – If you are freelancing your client may want more and more. If you failed on your end to communicate extra cost of additions, take the bullet, make the change and fix the issues and move on. Don’t bother fighting it. If the client isn’t happy at the end, they’re not gonna wanna pay you.

Test your final product – If its a DVD, see if it plays on your player. Watch your final product. Don’t be lazy to fix your audio or jump cuts. Have someone else read your text to check your spelling.

Try to remain a good relationship with your client – You want them to refer you to others and hire you for more work in the future. The customer isn’t always right but let them think they are. Make them happy.

No matter what you’ll always have some freelance issue. If you learn how to do the business part well then you can focus on the creative part of the project.

Freelancing is differently a skill. What have you learned over the years?

The Art of Editing Film

I finally finished a book I’ve been reading for a few months now.

The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film – Michael Ondaatje.
The thing about this book is that it gives such insight I never want it to end. I love carrying it around with pride, and can’t wait for someone to ask me about what I am reading so I could go in to great details of what I’m learning.
 Its a conversation between Film Editor, Walter Murch and Writer of The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje. They discussed work, art, poetry, the language of film and so many other interesting things. I couldn’t help but be thankful for the fact writer, Michael Ondaatje took the time to create this book. I felt like it was a special gift to inspiring film editors everywhere.

I already want to read it over. Here are some things I learned from the book.. and believe me so much more!

“What the world thinks is a success, what it rewards, has sometimes very little do to with the essential content of the work and how it relates to the author and his own development.” Walter was talking about his film Returned to Oz, it didn’t do well at the box office because it was dark and more life like. I remember watching this film as a little girl and when I got older I thought I had dreamt it. He stayed true to the version of the Return to Oz books. He was very proud of the outcome as many where but the general public didn’t like the fact it was dark. Which the books themselves were rejected in children’s libraries because it has witches in it. He quotes Rilke’s, “The point of life is to fail at greater and greater things.” He continues, “Every film has lessons to teach us- if we receive those lessons in the right way. That’s the trick..”

He also gives great insight on the art of film making -
”The task of the camera in his [Sidney Lumet, 12 Angry Men] films is not only to record but to reveal the hidden agenda, the hidden psychology-psychology that may even be hidden from the characters themselves, but which he’s revealing to us.”

“I’m taking into consideration, at the point of the cut, where the audience’s eye is and in what direction it’s moving, and with what speed. The editor has to imagine the audience’s point of attention when the film is projected, and has to be able to predict where ninety-nine percent of the audience is looking at any moment.”

“Every shot is a thought or a series of thoughts, expressed visually. When a thought begins to run out of steam, that the point at which you cut.”

How the story is told is essential to the story, the chemistry between sound and picture. He discuss that even the Prelude (beginning credits) is impotent to the movie. It sets up the audience for that is coming next.

The danger in breaking the rules to film, like introducing an important character to late in the movie. It can not only seem awkward but the audience has no investment in this person or no emotional connection.

Divergent – when you start with all the characters in the same time and space. (American Graffiti)
Convergent – two or three stories that start separately and then flow together. (Like the English Patient)

“There are two different kinds of film making; The Hitchcock idea that a film is already completed in the creator’s head or the Coppola concept that thrives on process..It has to be said-both system have their risks.”

“One of the reasons I lobby for the increased collaboration of everyone who can have a voice on a film is that through collaboration you add facets to the work. The work is going to be seen by millions of people, over many decades and under very many different circumstances, and even though the film is a fixed thing, you want it to be multifaceted so that different people will see different things in it and come away rewarded.”

I love reading and listening to Walter talk about the art of editing. He says its much like writing poetry, “The decision where to cut film is very similar to the decision, in writing poetry, of where to end each line..We do very much the same in film: the end of a shot gives the image of the last frame an added significance, which we exploit.” I always walk away enlightened and encouraged to keep on moving forward with my dream of being a film editor one day.