EDITING MENTORSHIP WEEKEND @ P.O.V.: 8/11/12 – 8/12/12
Editing is the courage to put two images next to each other, presenting them side-by-side to generate emotion and tell a story.
Earlier this month, Chicken & Egg Pictures presented the first mentorship workshop of the season. The weekend-long workshop focused on the “how to’s” of moving a project from the challenging rough cut stage to the satisfying fine cut stage. Led by Chicken & Egg Pictures co-founder Judith Helfand, the mentorship offered peer-to-peer feedback as well as feedback from Award-winning editors Nancy Kennedy and Mary Manhardt.
During the first day of the workshop, filmmakers from Caught in the Net, Fighting Kites, The New Black, and Xmas without China presented their rough cuts. Important topics explored throughout the day included story conflict, editing pace, and festival strategy.
The second day of the workshop consisted of rough cuts from Can’t Stop the Water, Cheshire, Ohio, Unstable Elements, and Uranium Drive-In. Great subjects included experimental structure, setting elements up without a payoff, and unpacking visual metaphors.
It was a thought-challenging, insightful, and rewarding weekend!
The two-day mentorship workshop brought many insightful tips and idea not only helpful to the filmmakers who were present at the event but to all filmmakers who may be stumped, eyes weary from late nights in the editing bay.
NINE TIPS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN TRANSITIONING FROM ROUGH TO FINE CUT
- You can do whatever you want before the title card, once the title card is up, the film resets.
- Anchor your audience within your film early. Viewers want to see the issue happening, not just told what is happening.
- Beware of the montage that doesn’t move the story forward.
- Simplify title cards: unpack as if you are presenting information to a small child.
- Don’t put most information in the top of your film: give audiences a reason to stick around, experiment with structure.
- Beware of setting up things you cannot pay off.
- Don’t use music as a crutch. The scene should be able to stand on its own, with the music serving as an enhancement.
- Be mindful of pacing. You don’t your audience to notice the edits.
- What do you want the audience to take away? What do you want the audience to act on?
FINE POINTS FROM GUEST EDITOR NANCY KENNEDY
Editor Nancy Kennedy had a few key points to add when pushing through the sometimes daunting editing stage:
- Go through your material again to see if there’s anything you loved from the start of your project that didn't make it in to your current cut. Maybe there’s a new take on an idea!
- Go through interview material and transcripts. – Perhaps you’ll find a refreshing point or outlook.
- Things may have more resonance now than when you first looked at it or cut it the first time. Look for things that can solve problems.
- Look to cut out the “um” and “uh”. When people speak, they are naturally repetitive. Go through your cut and streamline like a copy editor.
- It is really important to screen with other people. Don’t be nervous or defensive about imperfections (or thinking people won’t get it).
IMPORTANT THOUGHTS FOR FESTIVAL STRATEGY
Our co-founder Judith Helfand had a some great tips about preparing and strategizing for the festival season:
- Don’t finish your final cut the night before it’s due. Give yourself time to breathe and test it on multiple computers and/or TVs. Make sure someone else sees it. Be careful submitting to festivals before you’re ready.
- Take a break. Sometimes your relief of finishing for a deadline can make you overlook potentially important moments in your film. Step back, take a breath, and then go back to your project with refreshed eyes.
- Explore your “sacred geography.” Your film has a unique demographic that connects to a specific place in the world. Can you forge a dynamic link between the story in the screen and the location it’s playing?
- Make any fest an ‘A List’ festival. It’s all about presence!
- What’s the “event”? How do you tie your project to a area where it is playing? Check out this great even from March 2012 when grantee Brooklyn Castle had its premiere at SXSW: “Young Brooklyn Chess Player Draws a Crowd after Film Premiere” in Austin's American Statesman.
A special THANK YOU to P. O. V. for kindly donating the space for the Chicken & Egg mentorship weekend.