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.
“Ooh ooh!” she exclaims, sprinkling the impromptu spice into the saucepan. “What about that Malbec from our trip last month? It’ll go great with the side dish too.”
“Great!” I say with a grin, having never met a Malbec I haven’t liked.
This is usually how food prep goes in our home.
And today is no exception – I’ve been kicked out of the house so Chantel can host an afternoon of snacks and cocktails with a small group of her girlfriends.
Even though the other ladies were bringing edibles too, guess what she decided to serve her friends for snacks?
• Pistachio-crusted fresh figs, drizzled with local honey, sprinkled with chopped mint, and stuffed with ricotta cheese.
• Pan-seared, miniature meatballs of grass-fed beef and organic sausage, simmered in a sauce of sriracha and bourbon.
• For the featured cocktail: the Raspberry Rosewater Gin Rickey, Chantel having already muddled the raspberries with the gin an hour earlier, with the cocktail glasses already chilling in the freezer.
• Even the ICE WATER, for crying out loud, receives the gourmet touch of lightly slapped mint leaves and thin-sliced wedges of lemon.
And my wife feels she’s not creative because she doesn’t come up with these recipes from scratch herself.
“Sweetie, look at this amazing food you’re about to serve your friends,” I point out. “Plenty of other people would’ve just gone to the grocery store and grabbed a bag of Doritos and a 12-pack of Diet Coke.”
But that’s not Chantel. She puts so much attention into the choices, combinations, and overall effects of her food preparation that we regularly sit down to meals that would never otherwise be available except in fine dining restaurants with white linen tablecloths.
That’s just one of the legion reasons that I love her.
And that kind attention to the presentation and overall effect of a well-prepared meal is the exact sort of attention you and I as editors have the opportunity bring to our edits.
And THAT, my friend, is creativity in action.
It doesn’t matter that we didn’t write it.
It doesn’t matter that we didn’t shoot it.
Editing is about combinations of existing elements in the best way for the project at hand.
Now that’s far from clear-cut at times… I’ve spent my career editing TV here in Hollywood figuring out the myriad ways to tell the best story in the best way possible, and I continue learning each day I walk into the edit bay.
I’ve discovered some very powerful ideas along the way, though, that have transformed my editing and will transform yours.
For example – throughout my career editing TV here in Hollywood for NBC, ABC, ESPN, MTV, Universal, Disney, and all sorts of other folks, I’ve come up with my Top 5 Tips For Picking the Perfect Edit Point Every Single Time.
Yes, it IS possible to do that. I’d like to send these road-tested, insider tips to you as a thanks for being here.