Creative Editing: Story Structure & The Beauty Queen Beast Mom

BARBIE PLUS BARBELL STORY2

The producers wanted one thing, the footage dictated another, and the editor (yours truly) had to build something that sent everyone home happy.

That’s what we editors do, of course.

Maybe this will trigger some ideas to help you along your journey of doing the same thing.

Minus certain details (and any stills or video from the actual piece) withheld to uphold hefty non-disclosure agreements, here’s how it went down – and what it means for YOUR stories.

 

PRODUCERS SAY: HERE’S WHAT WE WANT!

I was editing background packages for athletes competing on a primetime, major network TV series. These little bio pieces usually run about a minute and a half or less, so the stories need to be focused, and very clear.

The ideal outcome is that the audience can identify with the athlete and actually care how he or she does in the competition segments that follow… and if the audience can either laugh, cry, or have some sort of emotional experience in the process, all the better.

My story producer emailed me the location of the newly built stringout, adjusted for the co-executive producer’s notes.

I opened up the bin, loaded the stringout sequence, and watched it down.

It told a story of a woman who’s a reigning beauty queen, but also competes in hard-core obstacle course races.

The piece begins with the gal flipping her hair and announcing that “even though most people think I’m the beauty, I’m really the beast.” She punctuates the thought with a pouty-lipped, glowering stare into the camera.

Ewww.

Cheesy porn moment. Gotta do something about that.

She describes how she bench presses her kids and has pull-up contests with them, in the hopes of showing them that it’s ok to be a strong female role model.

She loves seeing them be strong and confident, and they know that they can achieve whatever they put their mind to.

That was the original story.

But that wasn’t the story the crew had actually shot. Continue reading Creative Editing: Story Structure & The Beauty Queen Beast Mom

Four critical steps to booking your dream editing gigs

 

Jeff Bartsch dream gig

Come, editors young and old. Let’s throw up our hands at the sky and yell:

“How the heck do I get editing work that I really want?!”

“How do I find those magical jobs that pay what I want to earn?!”

Or even more elusive, the quiet question: “All my life I’ve wanted to cut [insert dream gig here]. Is it even possible to get there?”

Members of online editing communities constantly ask the questions –

“Gosh, things have been really slow. Is it just me?”

“I’m tired of the freelance grind, constantly hustling for the next gig.”

Younger members of the group ask, “Why can’t I seem to get a break?”…while others, even established veterans, quietly give up.

Just recently, a member of the Power Edit community emailed me that he’s leaving editing – it’s taking too long to get established, and he has a wife and a baby to support.

I get that. I have both of those myself.

All those questions could be answered happily if the person asking them had a steady stream of editing work, whatever form that takes for you.

So how DO you book your dream gigs as an editor?

There are four major factors that all have to line up.

Spoiler alert, here they are:

1.You need the right skills.
2. You need the right opportunities.
3. You need the right connections.
4. You need to be the right person.

 

On the face of things, the list isn’t all that sexy.

But the result of putting all those ideas into play most definitely is.

Let’s discuss critical element #1 to booking your dream editing gigs:

 

dream gig skills

YOU NEED THE RIGHT SKILLS.

To book the work you want to book, you have to know what your employers, collaborators, or clients expect of you.

Do they expect you to grab videos off their son’s iPhone, download videos of his most amazing high school sports moments from YouTube, and put it together into a killer demo reel for any collegiate sport scouts who ask for it?

Ya better know how to do all that, both the techie stuff AND knowing what sport scouts want to see.

Do they expect you to oversee a multiple-camera-to-digital-cinema-package workflow with monstrous file sizes, 19 codecs, 36 LUTs, and 7-channel sound mix? Continue reading Four critical steps to booking your dream editing gigs

Four groovy ways to Uptown Funkify your editing

Uptown FunkinessWhat can a music video with over a BILLION views teach us about video editing?

Plenty.

As of this writing, the music video for “Uptown Funk” (Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars) is the 7th most watched video on Youtube of all time.

The song spent 14 consecutive weeks at #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

In January 2015, “Uptown Funk” streamed a record 2.34 million times in a single week in the UK.

Back across the pond, it set a new record for the highest number of streams in one week in the US – 4.8 million of them.

In a week.

If you haven’t both heard the song and seen the video, stop whatever you’re doing and watch it here, right now.

If it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, watch it again.

You know you want to.

Now that the song’s hook has firmly embedded itself in your brain, here are some thoughts on the video’s editorial style that you can apply to your own editing.

Wanna watch the video again?

Yes, you should do that. I’ll wait here.

And we’re back.

Before we get into it, avoid the trap of thinking “this stuff only applies to music videos,” because these ideas have direct application to everything from the driest, most clinical corporate video to the most lavishly budgeted, self-loving-auteur-driven feature film.

Check it out:

 

1. PRACTICE FUNCTIONAL VS. BEAT-DRIVEN CUT POINTS

FUNCTIONAL: The video’s cutting leans heavily on the classic functional music vid style – snappy yet invisible cuts that are driven by the actions within the shots themselves. Continue reading Four groovy ways to Uptown Funkify your editing

How to be a Rockstar Editor: develop split personalities (in the smart way, not the creepy way)

rockstar editor ad

It’s true. Everybody wants a Rockstar.

If you edit video for pay, you may have seen people requesting something like this:

Hey there, Awesome People!! We’re looking for a total Rockstar Editor who will bring your creativity, positive attitude, and willingness to work for substandard rates without complaining!!

For this Totally Awesome job, you must have multiple major network credits in docu-drama series that follow pharmaceutical sales reps in the Yukon who have six fingers on each hand and moonlight as strippers on the weekends!!

Please FedEx 11 letters of recommendation along with your current resume printed on genuine Egyptian parchment paper to me at 12345 City Blvd, Suite 101, Big City, State!! If you do not have the above qualifications, please do not apply or leave Non-Awesome comments here!! Team players only!!!

Ok, so I’m kidding.

Just barely.

If you see requests like that, they are likely jobs that you want to avoid like the Egyptian Plague. (See previous post “This little known video editing secret can keep you from going NUTS.”)

Truth is… producers, directors, or clients who pay money for video editing talent usually do want Rockstar talent, whether they use that word or not.

They want to know that they’re getting someone who can deliver the right stuff in the right timeframe, preferably making the process as painless and/or Awesome!! as possible.

So how do we pull that off? How do we editors develop a reputation for being Rockstars… in the genuine “I would work with this guy/gal any day of the week!” way?

Here’s just one of the many ways to make that happen: Continue reading How to be a Rockstar Editor: develop split personalities (in the smart way, not the creepy way)

This little known video editing secret can keep you from going NUTS

polar bear double facepalm

Do you edit video and value your mental sanity?

Good, me too.

Check this out, because this is important.

Here at The Power Edit, we’re all about the parts of editing that go beyond the button pushing and all the software and techie stuff.

Everyone else talks about that, and that’s fine.

But here’s what so few people actually talk about:

The creative and mental side of editing, and how to tell great stories in a truly powerful way – in a way that’s relatable to the 99.8% of the world who don’t cut $300M studio blockbusters.

So along the mental side of things, here’s a not so well known fact:

Whether you edit for pay or for free, your mental well being as an editor is hugely affected not only by the gigs you take… but even more so by the gigs you DON’T take.

Like this one.

gypsy wedding pic

After a hugely appreciated month off editing, with my wife and I getting used to life with our newborn son, I started a new gig this week.

I’ll talk more about it some other time, but for now, I’m just cringing in horror at this picture that’s sitting atop a stack of boxes directly outside my edit bay. Continue reading This little known video editing secret can keep you from going NUTS

Russian Filmmaker Exploits Drunk Baby!!

film camera drunk baby2Zee Russians are always handy scapegoats for any number of things, da?

In this case, I’m talking about one particular Russian’s film editing brainstorm from the early 1900’s that has a direct effect on YOUR editing today, no matter the project or your editing experience or software.

Keep reading for the drunk baby part.

A certain Soviet filmmaker conducted a film editing experiment in the early 20th century where he showed a shot of an expressionless man, then a shot of a bowl of soup. Back to the man, same expression.

Then a shot of a body in a casket. Back to the man, same expression.

Then to a shot of a woman in a bikini. Back to the same man, same expression.

Audiences at the time remarked at the remarkable breadth of emotion portrayed by the actor – hunger for the soup, sadness at the body in the casket, lust for the scantily clad woman.

But it was the exact same shot of the actor every single time. The differences in the actor’s “reactions” only existed in the mind of the audience by virtue of how the shots were edited together.

This is what is known to generations of film students as The Kuleshov Effect, named for its founder, Soviet filmmaker Lev Kuleshov.

Behold! Through the modern miracle of YouTube, here is the original sequence.

And here’s a cool alternate explanation of the Kuleshov Effect by none other than Alfred Hitchcock. He doesn’t call it the Kuleshov Effect, but it’s the exact same idea: Continue reading Russian Filmmaker Exploits Drunk Baby!!

A fable of bagels, coffee, and future editing success

bagels and coffee IMG_5965-smAn editing fable for your consideration:

A team of executives at a major three-letter TV network give each other high fives over the continuously large viewer numbers on their hit show.

The executives draft a note to the large group of producers and editors who bring this hit show into being every week:

“Thank you so much for your hard work this season. The show has become a phenomenon thanks to everyone’s efforts, and we just can’t say ‘thank you’ enough.”

The note is delivered to the offices of said producers and editors atop a ribbon-wrapped gift basket whose contents fill an entire table in the kitchen with a princely spread of bagels, pastries, 6 tubs of cream cheese, and 4 gallon-sized cartons of piping hot coffee with real sugar, fake sugar, cream, stir sticks, the whole nine yards.

Editors #1 and #2 walk into the kitchen and read the note taped on the wall above the spread of food.

“Aww. That’s so cool!” says Editor #1 with a smile. “That doesn’t happen very often these days. They didn’t have to do that.”

“Yeah,” agrees Editor #2. “We really don’t ask for much, just some acknowledgement of our work. Crazy how good that feels.”

Word of the unusual spread of goodies travels through the offices. The kitchen is soon filled with editors and producers.

Editor #3 walks in and reads the note with a snort of disdain. Continue reading A fable of bagels, coffee, and future editing success

Case Study: 3 Huge Tips to Create Huge Emotion In Your Video Editing

emoticons2You’re four years old, and your mean uncle tells you the story of the Child-Eating Monster Under Your Bed.

Is four-year-old you gonna have an emotional reaction to that?

You kiddin’ me?!

You have nightmares for months. You wet your bed repeatedly.

And you remember that time in your life to this very day.

Why? Because you were scared out of your four-year-old mind, and you felt it to the very core of your being.


one grenHUGE TIP #1: 
The stories that leave the biggest impact on us are the ones that make us FEEL something. Therefore, always look to enhance the emotional impact of your pieces, even if your piece might not seem to be emotionally driven.

I kid you not, this is one of the most important things we can accomplish as editors and storytellers – to tell a story in such a way that the audience gets emotional as a result.

Now here’s one of the easiest things to use to your advantage:

Time, by letting emotion build as you tell longer stories.

That’s why movies are so effective in completely transporting us to different worlds – the movies run 90 minutes or longer, and we’re just sitting there watching. Every minute that ticks by is another minute where the storyteller gains more control over our attention and emotions.

Of course, if you’re gonna tell a long story, you better have a really good story that is deemed worthy of the audience’s time.

And let’s face it: at the end of the day, the bulk of the stories we tell either in person or through editing will be short.

And for the same above reason of time, short form editing is often harder than one might think. You only have a matter of seconds sometimes to put your audience in an emotional state.

Because of this, my practice is: Continue reading Case Study: 3 Huge Tips to Create Huge Emotion In Your Video Editing

Didgeridoo in church

didgeridoo playerWe’re suckers for singular moments that stand out. Floods of information wash over us, and the vast majority of it, for one reason or another, doesn’t stick.

Every once in a while, though, something does, and it leaves a mark. An impression, a reference point.

These moments usually evoke a distinct feeling or emotion in our minds.

Sometimes these singular moments leave their mark for minutes, others literally leave a mark for the rest of our lives.

Case in point:

This past Sunday, my wife and I were standing in church, singing along with the band. As of this writing, I can’t even remember which songs we sang.

Here’s what I do remember:

As the stage full of musicians came to the end of a fairly loud song with everyone playing at once, everyone stopped playing except for the keyboardist holding out one sustained chord on a synth pad… Continue reading Didgeridoo in church

Am I actually creative?

Who in their right mind would disagree that this is an example of creativity?
Who in their right mind would disagree that this is an example of creativity?

I’ve heard editors wonder at times: “Am I creative?  Really, genuinely creative? I’m not writing a screenplay, I’m not directing the shoot, I’m just the editor putting together stuff that other people handed off to me.

“Is that actual creativity?”

Consider a similar scenario.

Chantel, my wife, regularly questions whether she’s at all creative in the kitchen.

“I could never come up with these recipes on my own,” she tells me with a sad shake of her head. “I mean, how on earth do people figure out all these random ingredients to put together into a brand new thing?”

She then proceeds to examine the recipe at hand with a practiced eye.

“Are you kidding me? This says it’ll take 15 minutes to prepare. Not a chance.”

She strides over to the cabinets that hold the needed ingredients.

Saint, Minister of Propaganda and VP of Canine at The Power Edit, perks up from his position under the kitchen table to gauge his chances of scoring a snack from food falling on the floor.

“The recipe says to use half a cup. I think I’ll make that a quarter cup,” Chantel announces. She decides on an alternate ingredient to make up the extra quarter cup.

“What do you think about wine to go with this?” she asks, striding around the kitchen island to give a quick stir to the bubbling contents of a saucepan on the stove, sticking a spoon in for a quick taste.

“Hmm,” I say. “Well, what about –“

“Needs a little something more,” she mumbles distractedly before I can finish. She opens up the spice cabinet, spins the rotating platter of spice bottles until she finds just the right one. Continue reading Am I actually creative?

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