Film/TV Editing Insights and Inspiration


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Top 3 Editing Tips from Steve Hullfish

First, you need a lot of “reps.”
You need the time in the editor’s chair or with the camera. You need to be telling stories ALL the time. The best way to get better is just to do the work. Figure out something you can shoot or edit. Nobody would consider going out on stage as a dancer or violinist or onto the field in the NFL or NBA without years of practice, the same is true for telling pictures through film. You’ve seen the kinds of movies and TV shows that have inspired your desire to be in the business. But to get to that level just doesn’t happen. You have to practice a LOT. The best way to get good at anything is to fail and learn from your mistakes. You need to have the confidence and patience to make a LOT of mistakes without losing heart in your abilities.

Second, you need to watch a lot of movies and TV and try to deconstruct the decisions that were made and why something was cut the way it was. How and why are they cutting something as common as a dialogue scene. Why does a dialogue scene in this movie look different from a similar conversation in another story? Or why is one dialogue scene cut differently than another dialogue scene in the same film? Almost evry moment in a film is covered by multiple set-ups or camera angles, so why did thy chose the exact camera angle and “size” of shot for a specific moment in the story? When do they use close-ups? When are they on a 2-shot?

Third, do not get wrapped up in technique. Everything should be in service to the story. Think of how your edit choices affect the audience’s perception of the story and the characters in the story. Pace and edit speed need to be in service to the story. Which person you’re “on” in a conversation needs to be in service to the story. Should you be on the speaker or the listener? That depends on what that decision has to say about the story and the perception of the characters. How quickly you cut to the answer to a question or to the response to a statement says a lot about the characters and the story. Is the response hesitant because they’re contemplative or worried about saying the wrong thing? Is it abrupt and impatient? Or is it fast because the character is super-smart? Do you leave in “shoe-leather” (walking or driving from one place to another) because you need to give the audience time to think or feel or anticipate? Or do you cut it out to move the story along faster?

Film and TV Editing Insights by Steve Hullfish