On Monday night a friend of mine put a distress call out over Twitter looking for an editor. Having spent the last couple of years cutting my own projects and knowing her company – markthree media – use the same system as I do, I volunteered to pop in on Tuesday and help out.

It wasn’t a hugely technical job; I was there essentially to tackle a couple of issues that had been spotted ahead of final submission to the client and try to shave a little bit off each of the four vids they were submitting. All of which is par for the course on these kinds of videos, it just so happened that their original editor was unavailable to get it done before the deadline.

It was a really interesting exercise for me as a filmmaker, though.

Firstly, I’ve never cut someone else’s footage before, which means I’ve never really made many creative decisions in editing, as I tend to have my final picture laid out in my head while I’m shooting, which means my editing is usually a case of just stringing it together in a way that makes sense. I’ve never had to spend a lot of time working through all the footage and working out how to fit all the pieces in place in a sensible way.

Cutting someone else’s footage also made me realise how much you need to think about the edit when you’re shooting for another editor. Cutting my own stuff means I know what I’ve shot so I never get too hung up on shots that may not be there, because I never think of them. ¬†As an outside eye on an edit, you find yourself thinking, “What I really need is a quick cutaway of this thing in close up,” or “It would be great to have that bit of action from this angle,” which can make it inordinately frustrating when you find you don’t have that footage available to you. I’ve taken note that if someone else is editing my work, I need to give them as many options, cutaways and inserts as I can.

I’ve also learned the enjoyment of collaborative editing. Being a self-shooting producer/director/editor on almost all of my documentary stuff, I make all the creative decisions. While this nicely feeds my control freakery, it masks just how much enjoyment you can get from sitting in an editing suite with a director or creative producer trying different options out and seeing how they work.

Not only did Tuesday’s looooooong day of cutting (left for Town at 9am, got home at 12.35am) give me great confidence in my own ability as an editor, but also allowed me to learn a number of valuable lessons that will make me a better producer, director and shooter.

Anyone need an editor?

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