One of the toughest challenges for a filmmaker is keeping the story focused. This is particularly important if you’re doing short videos intent on communicating a strong message. Earlier this year I wrote about the importance of cutting in film and video editing. Cutting out all the extraneous information and unnecessary exposition to get to the heart, the meat of your message. Today I want to share a practical example of a recent project. In fact, it’s a deleted scene from the personal film I posted yesterday.
As you recall, the 2+ min film follows my 6 year old son building a mansion with his Legos, and the importance of creatives to move onto the next project once you’re finished with the current. Below is a deleted scene from the original draft. I can’t tell you how hard it was for me to pull this clip out of the main film. (I’m sure half my justification for today’s blog post is just so I could show it. 🙂 ) First watch the clip, then read below why I cut it.
There were three primary reasons I cut this clip.
- I didn’t want to give the impression that my helping him resulted in the finished masterpiece looking the way it did. It was all him. I only helped him with one stubborn block. But as edited, the implication is that it looks the way it does because of me. Nothing could be further from the truth. (I pretty much suck at Legos).
- I felt that this clip distracted from the main message, which is that once you finish a project, it’s important to move on to the next one. My original reason for having it was to show that at some point, creatives will need help and that it’s okay to ask for it. While that is a true statement and one worth exploring, I felt that for the context of this film, it was more than I wanted. If you saw the original, you’ll notice that I do still touch on creatives meeting obstacles, and my interaction with my son in that point alludes to the creative’s need to ask for help, but it’s just not as pronounced (or long) as this piece.
- I wanted to keep this very short (ideally 2 minutes) and have the focus be the aforemetioned message.
There were other scenes I cut out that I thought were pretty funny. Like Joshua getting irritated with me every time I asked him to do something over because I missed it with my camera. Out of context, it came across poorly. Also, you’ll notice at the end of this clip, he says something at the end. What he says is “You can create new things instead. And then you’ll be happy.” I felt like this perfectly captured the spirit of the piece (his love of starting over and over to create new and better projects). But, in the end, it was just too difficult to understand. I toyed with the idea of adding captions, but then that distracted from the push-in shot of his “Do not touch” sign. So, ultimately, I just took it out.
So there you have it. A short, but sweet, look into the life of a film editor. How do you go about making your editing decisions?
For me it’s what matters, what resonates, what feels right. I try to make my work lean by cutting the excess fat. I’m not just the editor, I’m also the audience.
Ron Dawson says
Good points Andrew. We all should endeavor to watch our films as if we’re the audience. Sometimes that’s hard to do, esp. if you’re too close. That’s particularly why I had four people look at this to give me feedback.
Michael Wright says
Your blog posts are always thoughtful and entertaining Ron. Thanks for sharing your insights and your process.
In answer to your question: As a husband and wife team, Rosey and I have an ever evolving process with respect to ‘editing decisions’ that is sometimes filled with animated discussions. For the record, her ‘radar’ with respect to shot selections that make it into the final edit, is both invaluable and difficult to describe. Editing is a lot like making sausage.
Ron Dawson says
Thanks for the compliments on the blog posts Michael. And I can totally related to your “animated discussions” point when it comes to working the the spouse on creative choices. 🙂
Its funny how often clients can get hung up on how long something needs be just for the sake of length instead of thinking of the minimum amount of time needed to get the story told.
Ron Dawson says
True. A lot of people are under the impression more is better. I like what my english teacher senior year in h.s. used to say, “Give me fudge, not cotton candy.”