Mrs. Roosevelt and the bad notes

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Ever gotten a note or comment from a director, client, or producer that feels downright insulting?  Of course you have. If you haven’t yet, you will.

I once cut on a major network show whose showrunner had an Avid in his office, and he left black locator marks in editors’ cuts. And the comments attached to those black dots weren’t just “upgrade this” or “swap this bite,” they were real doozies.  Like “Who on earth thought this music was a good idea?” And one for the holiday special episode: “With this edit, you have single-handedly ruined Christmas.”

Not kidding. Some editors almost quit over those notes.

Eleanor RooseveltEleanor Roosevelt was quite the lady who said some very self-aware things. I offer one for the consideration of us editors and those who aspire to be editors:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Uh… are you telling me that  getting offended is on me, not the jerk who actually insulted me?

Yes. Exactly.

It is the literal opposite of what the world tells us. “That action is offensive!!” screams Person A. “No it’s not,” retorts Person B. And around they go, both being simultaneously right AND wrong.

Comments are neither good nor bad in and of themselves – their perception of “good” or “bad” is entirely up to the person who receives them.

I at one point received a huge stack of notes from a network executive  regarding the first rough cut on the first episode of a new series.  After the obligatory, “Great stuff everyone, love how things are coming together,” the exec wrote that “the episode feels rough around the edges.”

Should I as the editor who works my butt off to assemble smoothly flowing sequences be insulted by that comment? Many years ago, I would have. Here’s the thing, though – I had cut the pilot episode of that show, which had received ecstatic, rave reviews from that very same executive. I put forth no less effort on the premiere episode than I did on the pilot, and my skills certainly didn’t decline from pilot to series. If anything, they improved. Plus, the decision makers at the company who hired me for both the pilot and the series love me and my work.

So it was equally possible for me to see that comment as good or bad. And if I had chosen to get ticked off at that comment, it would have been just that – my choice.

We don’t always have a choice on what happens to us, but we ALWAYS have a choice as to how we react.

These kinds of ideas deal with the editorial role that I refer to as the Psychologist Hat. For more ideas like this, plus specific strategies and tactics on how to achieve editing that blows away your audience time and again, check out EDIT BETTER: Hollywood-Tested Strategies for Powerful Video Editing.

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