Just had a thought about revisions.

Not that today is particularly “revision heavy,” but it’s a big part of this business, and it’s something that I’ve seen a lot of editors have problems with. Here’s my take on revisions:

1. Don’t be offended

This may sound strange, but a lot of editors get offended or defensive about their cuts. It’s part of the business and sometimes you have to be prepared to have your favourite parts cut out. Sometimes we make a story or pacing decision that is lost on the viewer, but because we’re so close to the material, we don’t realize its lackof effectiveness. Generally, if someone asks you to change something, and you have to give a long winded explanation of why you did it a certain way, it probably wasn’t working. The exception here is continuity.

For instance, you may think “the reason reason I put that shot in was to show the viewer what an incredible connection the son and mother have.”

Well, if your client wasn’t seeing the connection, it may not have been there in the first place. If they were seeing this great connection, then they wouldn’t have asked you to change it!  I’m not saying you shouldn’t stick up for what you believe in, I’m just saying that there’s no point in being stubborn. In the digital age, we can always keep every cut. On that note…

2.  Keep every edit!

Especially in the advertising world, clients always like to refer to old cuts. I always hear things like “remember that opening shot we were using yesterday morning?”, or “show Phil where were at yesterday, and how’s it has improved today.” When I cut a commercial, I often have between 30 and 40 versions of the spot. Most of these are garbage, or just slightly different older versions. But you need to mark and label the ones that you think may come back. A specific idea that you tried, or a cut everyone liked that had to be changed. But don’t let your project get too messy. I usually keep a folder in my project called “old cuts” where I send unnecessary cuts to die. It’s always nice to know you can go back to them.

3. Communicate!

Make sure you understand what they want. Nothing is a bigger waste of time than going back and forth on revisions, and changing the wrong thing. Sometimes clients can be very vague, and you can save the process from hours of wasted time, by clarifying what you are going to do up front. Usually, there’s no point in trying to surprise the client.

4. Do it with a smile.

Like I said, there’s no reason to be defensive. In fact, finding ways to make revisions work is a great way to improve yourself as an editor/filmmaker. There’s a theory around that Speilberg was a much better filmmaker when he didn’t have unlimited funds for his movies. He couldn’t afford a robotic shark for the entire movie of Jaws, so he made the decision to not show the shark for the first half of the movie. It’s what made the suspense! Having to work around a problem is what makes us better filmmakers.

5. Be fast

The longer you wait to revise your work, the more it may get second-guessed. And if the client is very happy with it, well they’ll want to show people as soon as they can. Give them a chance to be excited about it! If the projects been around forever, they may have lost all excitement once it gets in a good place for them to show.

– Gerrit