Unfortunately, there are no secrets. There is no magic formula for becoming a great editor.
However, doing these three things will certainly help.
Secret #1 – Edit. A lot.
Edit as much as you can. It’s the only way to get good and get fast.
You can take classes and read all the editing books you want, but if you don’t know how to apply that information, you will not get very far.
One of the first things I learned when I was hired as a full-time editor for a TV show was to cut the excuses and get to work.
Working in television is intense.
Things move quickly and every mistake you make matters because it impacts the quality of the show.
I witnessed a high turnover rate of editors that simply were not ready for the big leagues.
It’s scary seeing your colleagues walk in through the door one day and out the next.
It kept me on my toes.
I worked 12, 16, and 20 hour days sometimes. It was brutal. It also made me a very good editor.
It’s rare that I run into a problem that I have not encountered before. In those rare instances that I do, it is the experience I have that allows me to fix the problem quickly. It’s faster than googling. And while books are great, they don’t have all the answers.
There are so many variables of what can go wrong that there is no way to pre-package that. You have to live through it. The more you edit, the better prepared you will be.
Secret #2 – Edit with a purpose
First, find your story. As a storyteller, that should be your first priority.
I hate looking at videos that simply cut to the beat. Whenever I look at a video that prioritizes the music over the story, it not only makes me more critical but completely detaches me from the story, which is the last thing you want to do.
Don’t fool yourself. Editing to the beat does not make you a good editor. It only means you know how to count to four.
I’m sorry if that sounds harsh.
Music is a tool you should use to enhance your story, it should not determine it.
I’m not saying don’t edit to the beat either. That sounds just as ridiculous as only editing to the beat.
What I’m saying is, edit with a purpose.
Stories have voices. Those voices are what makes the viewer connect. Listen to that voice. What is the storytelling you to do? Where is the story taking you? It will always speak to you. Listen.
Secret #3 – Learn the craft, not the software
I am so glad that the whole FCPX debacle is over and done.
When that whole snafu was taking place, I was working exclusively on Final Cut Pro. I had mastered it. My workflow was a fine-tuned editing machine…and Apple ripped it away.
Only it really didn’t.
Even though I worked exclusively on FCP, I never saw it as more than a tool, like a pair of scissors.
I didn’t look at FCP with any kind of affinity or attachment. I could care less what Apple did or does to it because FCP is not what makes me a good editor.
I know the craft of shaping a story, not the art of leveraging FCP to shape the story for me.
So I jumped on Adobe Premiere almost immediately. I chose Premiere because it was the best tool for the job I needed to do at the time.
And I could have just as easily jumped on Avid.
I remember my time as a music video editor in LA when Final Cut Pro started to dominate the market, many Avid editors refused to touch it.
They looked at it with a snobby glare and felt it was inferior or beneath them. I saw their workload decrease and their earnings shrink because more and more clients were requesting to work on FCP.
The wave was coming and I jumped into a new system because that was the tool I needed to know then to make money.
Don’t attach yourself to any application, learn the craft, learn how to tell a story. Frankly, learn to use as many editing apps as you can. Don’t limit yourself to one workflow. The tool you use shouldn’t matter as long as it is the best tool for you to get the job done.
Becoming great at something is not going to happen by reading a book, or watching a video. It will come from getting your hands dirty and doing the work.
Don’t be so anxious to take shortcuts, they’re not always a good thing.
Approach your work as an artist.
Absorb the material, deconstruct it, and put it back together into something great.
Have a project that needs editing? Let’s chat!