First Time Filmmaker F-Up 52 You Don’t Need to Watch ALL the Footage

The F-Up

In the early stages of editing, reviewing all your footage can seem rather time consuming and maybe even pointless, especially if you have a clear vision of what you want. However, what you want at the beginning of the process and what you want throughout the editing process is very likely to change. Only by knowing all your footage well will you know what changes are possible.

How to Do It Right

Months after you start editing, you may find yourself working on a scene and think of a shot that you trashed from another scene that you could cheat in to help make this scene better. However, if you don’t know your footage well, you will never appreciate all that is already at your fingertips. The better you know your footage, the better you can manipulate it to improve your movie.

You should know your footage better than you know yourself. The more you and/or your editor know every frame, the better it can serve you and your movie. You never know what little snippet of a look, a line, or an accident you will be able to utilize. Thus, it’s important to review all your footage at the beginning of editing and remind yourself of it periodically throughout the process.

After you have reviewed all your footage, you should start your first “assembly” with a similar approach. The assembly is the cut that will most resemble your movie’s script. That means putting everything in, and in the order it was scripted. As happens when you review your footage, your assembly will likely involve a lot of things that will not survive all the way through to the final edit. You should include things you know do not work, the slow parts, the bad jokes, the awkward scenes, and so on. This cut may be painful to watch at times, but looking at everything together is a crucial tool for moving forward with your future cuts.

Until you can look at your movie as a whole, you don’t even know what it is you have. Being able to get a sense of all that is in front of you will begin to generate ideas on how to rework it. Only then will you feel where your movie lags, where lines do not work, and where scenes can be re-ordered. Sure, the assembly will be too long and will drag at times, but think of it as a tool to create the product—not the product itself. And even if you have a very clear vision as to the bulk of your edit, the assembly is still a great means of seeing it all laid out for that small (but important) percentage of your movie you may not have already worked out in your head.

Keep in mind that no rule says anyone in the outside world ever has to see your assembly. It is a tool for you and your editor alone to use. Your assembly absolutely needs work; that’s the point of it—to help make clear what future work will be necessary, which is possible only if you’ve seen everything.

Excerpted from First-Time Filmmaker F*&^ Ups by Daryl Bob Goldberg ©2011 Elsevier Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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