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My editing style

I find the editing process quite similar to screenwriting. It’s very much about putting the right pieces together.

One of the methods I use is as follows:

*) The beginning is the most important. Billy Wilder used to say ‘Grab them by the throat, and don’t let them go’…. Audiences have minimal patience, especially when in the cinema or online. McKee states how cinema is a visual spectrum, and 80% of the eye concentrates on screen. It’s different in TV, hence you have a lot longer to let the story unfold.

Even blogs require some pictures and videos, as the reader would be unable to concentrate on huge chunks of text for a long amount of time.

When I’m editing I ensure that I loosely follow the above timeline, to create the most effective piece. This structure is taken from screenwriting, and my knowledge in that area allows me to edit effectively.

*) In our lesson with Ken, he said that someone should know what your movie is about in the opening 3 minutes. I don’t really have that time length of 3 minutes to work with, as it’s in relation to a feature length. I’ll have about 1 minute to let the audience know what my documentary story is about.

*) Although every story (film, documentary etc) has a beginning, middle and end. Each scene also has a beginning, middle and end.

You don’t need to necessarily have it in that order. A tip that I learned from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, is that you should start with the most dramatic. He always interweaves the story, for example starting with end, and going to beginning and finally showing you the middle.

*) Having an understanding of drama will always make you a good editor

*) When editing or writing a scene, if it’s too long, try and look to trim the end and the beginning. You’ll usually find that the base of what you want in your scene is usually in the middle

*) When editing a scene, ask yourself, can the scene be shorter? Is it essential to my documentary?

*) Paddy Chayefsky would always write down his central idea for his script, and sellotape it to his typewriter. This was to ensure he never strays away from his central idea. Your documentary and story can be about many things, but ultimately it should boil down to being about one thing!

*) Editing like writing, is a process where you’ll find your best work through re-editing many times. In my first documentary called FROM LONDON TO HELMDON, I had edited it four times.

I’m going to leave you with one of my favourite films, and just to comment it’s brilliant editing style.

Babel is a brilliant film, demonstrates world class film-making on all levels of production. However, I wanted to draw attention to the editing. Having a film with three storylines which are all set in different countries is a mammoth task to handle. But the superb editing always keeps you informed of each story, and giving the ample amount of time. The selection of angles, and cutting at the right time is always a reminder of how intricately you can compose a scene to get the right dramatic effect.

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