by Creative Director, Jim Aikman
“The experience of making the photographs [interferes with] decisions about the value of individual photographs.”
I’ve been fortunate to direct a few films that became long term projects, spanning years of my career. Until recently, I usually edited these projects as well as directing, and loved the creative freedom that it afforded - plus, it’s always hard to trust another editor! However, it can be difficult to chop up your darlings and leave them behind.
In 2017, I had the opportunity to direct two broadcast productions and work with an independent editor. This was partly helpful because an editor has to consider the opinions of the programs’ many producers on these bigger productions, and it would be difficult to stay objective as a director/editor. It was a great experience for me to step out of the editor's chair and be able to se the big picture more clearly.
Ultimately, it is not uncommon to work with smaller budgets and edit your own footage, so I thought I’d share some tips about how to stay objective:
There’s an interplay happening behind the intention of every edit between the emotional effect of an image and its narrative function; in other words, poetry vs prose. This can be totally interrupted by extraneous footage that the editor has left in because he or she was too personally attached to it. So the most important thing is to try and think objectively and always keep the bigger picture in mind.
Your editing style needs to be just pithy enough to carry the narrative, but not hold the viewer’s hand. This is largely accomplished after the initial scripting, where you can pay attention to what is being given to the viewer and what is being withheld, which encourages the imagination and participation from the viewer and promotes engagement. On the other hand, neatly leading a viewer through the experience can be patronizing and even worse, boring. This is true in everything from 30 second Instagram commercials to 90 minute features.
Time and space is crucial; you need to be able to step back from you footage and its arrangement in order to return with fresh eyes and see the footage for what it means to your story, not what it means to you.
Some of my best footage has wound up on the cutting room floor because it didn’t quite fit the story, or there was a better shot from a different angle. And I had to be alright with that… Until the time of the year comes around to revisit the highlight reel and you can drop in new shots that nobody’s seen :)
In the end, you’ll never be able to be totally objective about footage that you made, but finding that balance between something that you will enjoy and something the viewer will enjoy is the key.
For more fun blog posts and interviews with other industry professionals!