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:

Develop split personalities.

No, I’m not saying to stop bathing and sit on the street corners throwing jellybeans at anyone who walks by.

In this case:

The Rockstar Editor must think like his/her producers, especially when it comes to scheduling.

Case in point:

I recently took a few days off from my current gig for some out-of-town meetings.

But before I headed out of LA, I made sure to update my executive producers on the status of my editing, using a process that you can use on any of your own projects.

If you’re a one-man/woman band with your editing, and you have to produce as well, you’re likely intimately familiar with the idea of post scheduling and sticking to your time projections.

But it’s funny… a lot of editors who don’t do anything but edit approach any given job with an attitude something like:

“Hey producers, stop asking me if it’s done yet. I’ll keep working until it’s done, then I’ll let you know.”

“Stupid producers,” they mutter to themselves, turning back to their computer to check email and whine on Facebook about how much producers suck, and how little they appreciate us long-suffering editors.

screaming babyBooo hooo hooo.


Then they wonder why their producers (who live and die by budgets and schedules) get annoyed at them.

The question on my executives’ minds was, of course:

“So Jeff, you’re the only editor on this episode, and you’re leaving us for a chunk of the week.

“Are you going to stay on schedule with the edit?”

Here’s what I did to give them an answer:

  • I counted how many days I’ve been cutting.
  • I determined what I had accomplished so far.
  • I looked at how much was left to do given the remaining days before our first major screening.
  • And I estimated how much was left to do given those remaining days.

If this seems like a no-brainer to you, FANTASTIC.

You are not normal, in the very best sense. In fact you are already on your way to Rockstar status, if you’re not already there.

I assure you, going through the above steps is the farthest thing from many editors’ minds.


Breaking it down

Now your mileage will vary depending on your situation, but here’s how my current gig breaks down:

I am cutting an episode of an hour-long, sports competition show that will air on a major cable channel this coming spring.

Can’t tell you much more specifically here due to confidentiality stuff.

My execs have budgeted 25 edit days, or 5 edit weeks, to reach Internal Rough Cut 1, also known as IRC1, where my episode will be screened by the owners of the production company.

I am the only editor on this episode, so that gives me 5 weeks working Monday through Friday.

My hour-long episode breaks down into 6 acts consisting of both studio-shot, multi-camera competition segments and head-to-head trashtalk segments where the two competitors talk smack about each other.

As of edit day 13 before I left town, I had assembled the entire episode’s competition segments, done an audio pass on all 6 acts, and cut cameras (there are 15 sources) for acts 1 through the first section of 5.

So cutting a complete act without head-to-head packages is taking me between 2.5 or 3 days each.

Given that, I predict it will take about 17 edit days to reach a complete camera cut on the full show, which is currently timing out to 53 minutes.

The delivery requirements of this show include a 41:30 content clock, which means we’re 11.5 minutes heavy as of now.

Having to drop over 11 minutes of content from the initial edit of the episode might get a little tricky… but it will probably mean that we have to tinker with the format of “how we do things” in the episode.

Then those extra head-to-head packages: we currently have 8 of them slated at 40 seconds each.

That means if I can cut two of those a day – which I can – that will take us up to edit day 21.

That leaves 4 days until IRC1 to score music, rework voiceovers, and polish everything.

Which is why I confidently told my execs that yes, we are indeed on track to hit our first screening on schedule.

So to review, for those seeking to achieve or maintain Rockstar Editor status with your peeps:

Don’t just sit at your editing rig thinking only like an editor. Think like your schedule-driven producers, directors, or clients.


When you’re in the middle of cutting a project, and someone asks you if you’ll hit a deadline, ask yourself:

  • What’s my budget in time?
  • How much have I done so far, and how long has it taken?
  • How much is left to do, and how long do I predict that will take?
  • Does my time prediction match my deadline?

Very, very few people ask these questions regularly, if at all.

Putting on your Producer/Director/Client Personality and asking said questions will put you in a state of actively predicting what will happen, and you just might avert a scheduling train wreck.

This is just one way to be the Rockstar Editor every producer and client dreams of, and you will save yourself a LOT of unnecessary stress.

This post is expanded from multiple emails that I write every day Monday through Friday for The Power Edit community.

They are always short, insightful, entertaining, or some combination of all three.

If you’d like to polish your Rockstar Editor chops while having fun in the process, you should join our daily Power Edit email list. Zero spam here, and you can unsubscribe anytime you want.


Jeff BartschJeff Bartsch is the founder of The Power Edit and teaches and edits television in Los Angeles. His editing clients include ABC, NBC, Universal, Disney, ESPN, MTV, and many others. His book Edit Better: Hollywood-Tested Strategies for Powerful Video Editing is available worldwide on Amazon, Audible, Kindle, and iTunes. His commentary has been featured in TIME Magazine, USA Today, and the Associated Press.


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