Defending your choices – or not

A week ago today, I was in Crazy Man Mode. My team and I put on a three-hour live webcast, opening up a private meeting of our Los Angeles-based Power Edit Academy coaching group to the public. We screened Academy member edits and interacted with Power Edit friends from all around the world.

It was pretty sweet, and folks watching the livecast asked some really great questions. Here’s one of them taken from the event transcripts:

Question

How do you argue for a music cue you really think works? It can be so subjective. Sometimes producers want almost everything changed.

Answer from Jeff

You’re absolutely right. A lot of the times it comes down to “It’s their project not ours.” And a lot of the time we as editors say, “This is what I offer out of my experience and out of my gut, and if it meshes with the people who are making the decisions, fantastic. If it’s not, it’s not my piece. It’s not ultimately my responsibility.”

Now it IS my responsibility to do everything within my power to make sure that the piece is as good as humanly possible. Continue reading

Four Lies of the Editing Matrix

matrix power edit hallMy wife and I don’t watch many movies. I don’t watch TV either. Heck, I spend my whole day making the stuff, and the last thing I want to do is come home and turn the damn thing on.

However, on New Year’s Day, we did watch a movie. A groundbreaking, jaw-dropping, thoroughly enjoyable movie that I saw again after watching it in a movie theater for the first time 15 years ago. The dystopian science fiction thriller that showed the good guys whooping up on the bad guys while running sideways on the wall, dodging bullets like a prize fighter slipping under a ham-fisted right hook.

Much has been said about The Matrix which I won’t attempt repeating here. It has so many reasons to love it, not the least of which is the idea of reality being much more malleable than we might realize – and far different than what it seems.

Editing is exactly the same. Fluid, constantly changing, and riddled with misconceptions and lies to be avoided and bent towards the truth. Here are some of them:

LIE #1: Only the elite few are worthy of editing high-quality content.

This was true… LAST CENTURY. The tools of content creation and editing are now available to literally anyone anywhere who seeks them.

LIE #2: You have to be innately talented to edit well. It’s a gift that can’t be taught.

Wrong. Some sort of talent – overrated as it tends to be – is always helpful in any pursuit, but those who say powerful editing can’t be taught merely say so because they don’t know how to teach. Continue reading

Explain yourself, dangit

baby on planeVery recently: I was sitting near a screaming baby, in the very back row of a small airplane, with no legroom, and seats that would not recline. Things that would otherwise drive me nuts, or at very least annoy me. But I was ok with all of this.

Why?

Context.

Because my wife and I were finally on our way to be with family. Our departing flight had been delayed 4 hours, and it was looking like we might be stuck overnight in O’Hare airport… on Christmas Eve. And we wouldn’t have reached our destination until halfway through Christmas Day.

You're a perfectly fine airport, ORD... and get me outta here!!
You’re a perfectly fine airport, ORD… just get me outta here!!

Nothing against y’all, Chicago, but I’d much rather spend Christmas Day with family than with hard airport seats and a 6AM flight. Errgh.

But thankfully, when we finally touched down in Chicago, we were told 2 seats had opened up on a flight that was boarding, well, right now. Run run run run to the opposite end of the concourse, we’re the last people boarded, and shut the doors.

Whew. Just in time. But we’re on the flight, and we’ll get to where we’re going.

And that is why not even zero legroom with non-reclining seats behind a screaming baby bothered me at all.

Having just explained it, I have a decent expectation that you now know why. The shifted context changed everything for me.

In your storytelling, have you ever experienced showing something that you find incredibly powerful or significant, but other people just don’t seem to get it? The power and impact that you felt was loaded into your story just flies straight over their heads? Continue reading

Is it art or not? The answer is yes.

The Power EditAs editors, are we artists? Some say yes, others say no. Others say it depends on the project. Some years ago I was wading through an editing forum and found the below thoughts from a user named guanacaa58:

I think editing is directly analogous to writing. Here’s a couple of lines of writing that I consider art:

“When my love swears to me that she is made of truth
I do believe her, though I know she lies.
That she might think me some untutored youth
Unlearned in the world’s false subtleties”
-William Shakespeare

Here’s some writing I don’t consider art: Continue reading

How to kill editorial brain drain, part 1 of 2

Brain!!Thousands of choices every day. That’s our life as an editor. Constantly, constantly choosing between This and That. Weighing options of What I Want… versus What I Actually Have… What They Want, versus What I Think They Want… What I Think Is Possible versus What Is Actually Possible. Take all those, jumble them around in varying orders and balances, and you have editing.

All those choices take a toll on the editor. If you approach a typical day of editing with even a moderate amount of focus and concentration, you will end up tired.

This isn't me. But that's what I did. Great big stacks of bales on the trailer and later up in the hay loft of the barn.
That isn’t me, but that’s what I did. Great big stacks of bales on the trailer and later up in the hay loft of the barn.

Focused, applied mental work is every bit as tiring as manual physical labor, in some ways even more so. And in case you’re wondering whether I’ve ever done anything other than sit on my butt for a living, the answer is yes – I helped local farmers bale and stack hay when I was in high school, and I spent my first two years in college working at a lumber yard packing semi trucks by hand in 100 degree summers with 80% humidity. I get the physical labor thing.

These days, though… at the end of a day of editing, I’m mentally drained. I’m ready to go home and begin the process of refreshing my mind and my energy for the next day’s edit. Oh, and have a life outside the edit bay too. Talk with my wife, have dinner, walk the dog.

Sadly, I don’t have a solution to eliminating editorial brain drain. It’s pretty much an occupational hazard. Having said that, here are three ideas to help minimize it and keep your creativity flowing throughout your entire edit. Continue reading

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