The editor’s audience: [insert manly grunts here]

This morning I was reminded of a crucial editorial concept while standing in line at that most manly of places: AutoZone.

Autozone signs IMG_4222 sm

At first I noticed the poster of UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell lending his image to DuraLast batteries. Makes sense, right? Then I noticed all the other posters and started cracking up. Not because they were funny per se, but because of how plainly the DuraLast brand is pitching very specific ideas to a very specific audience that LOOOVES The Ice Man. Heck, I’m a fan myself – I spent 4 of the last 5 years cutting the UFC’s flagship Countdown to UFC show. IMDB will eventually back me up on this. Anyway.

On the poster featuring brake pads: “Tough enough to STOP ANYTHING you start.”

On a starter: “Go ahead and START SOMETHING. We dare you.”

With The Ice Man: “If your parts aren’t PROVEN TOUGH, Chuck ’em.”

On an alternator: “Packs ALL THE POWER of a roundhouse kick.”

On some sort of chassis assembly: “Put this stuff in and TAKE CONTROL.”

There are more, but you get the point. It’s not about car parts. It’s about connecting car parts to expressions of rugged individualism. Also, notice the color scheme in the store: Red. Orange. Blue. Green. Not a shade of teal or periwinkle to be seen, except for the in the custom seat cover aisle.

Now if you’re into market psychology you already know exactly what I’m talking about and why it’s so important – AutoZone must absolutely know their target audience, what they want, and why they shop there. It’s an overwhelmingly male audience who doesn’t want to spend the money having mechanics fix what they can fix better themselves for less money, dammit. We are self-sufficient, rugged men who take pride in fixing our own vehicles, thank you very much. Pardon me while I step outside to let out a Tarzan yodel:

AHHHH-ihh-uhh-ihh-uhh-ihh-UHHHH!!!!!tarzan yell

If you were editing a tv spot for AutoZone, would they want you to use a weepy violin solo with dreamy 3-second dissolves between shots? Heck no. They’d tell you to slam together shots with straight cuts, preferably playing over the Rolling Stones. Well, not the actual Stones, we don’t have the budget for them.

When you edit, be crystal clear on who your audience is, what they want, what they expect (or might not expect), and how they think. Edit accordingly.

If this seems like common sense to you, then fantastic. You might be interested to know I’ve built my editing career in Los Angeles by fixing the cuts of working professionals who don’t get this.

For more on this and many more ideas, check out EDIT BETTER: Hollywood-Tested Strategies for Powerful Video Editing by yours truly, Jeff Bartsch.

Gonna go add some oil to my car now. Grrr.

Get productive with The Tomato.

When it comes to getting things done, the tomato is your friend.

I came across an excellent post today written by Josh Short from – he was speaking about how to focus on cranking out the edit on those days when you just… don’t… feel like it. Errrrrgh.

The method he describes is known as the Pomodoro Technique, named after the Pomodoro tomato. One of the main elements of it involves the use of a separate, very visible timer that counts down how much time you have until it’s time to take a break.

timer and Saint IMG_4209 smI literally had set a kitchen timer rolling before I embarked on trolling the Intarwebs for tasty bits of info and news. Saint, our VP of Canine, is wishing I’d take a break to take him out an a walk – which I’ve already done this morning. Sorry, dude.

If you want to be more productive in the bay *every day*, click here to check out Josh’s post, and harness the Power of the Tomato.


Why you gotta sell it.

springfield newsWhy do newspapers have headlines? I’ll tell you why. It’s because any given newspaper or magazine has eleventy-two articles, and guess how many are of significant interest to you? Exactly TWO. The headline is the single most important element that chooses whether we decide to read the article or not.

Examine your Facebook feed or personal email inbox. If you’re anything like me, you absolutely require a decent pitch to get me to click on/open anything. And it’s gotta be a legit pitch that delivers. If it makes an outrageous prediction, it better actually make my jaw drop – or at least raise my eyebrows. Otherwise you end up like the online world now rolling its collective eyes at Upworthy and its headlines promising “Your life will change after watching this video!!” (No. It won’t.) Or “What happened next will leave you BREATHLESS!!” (Sorry. I enjoy breathing. Next.)

upworthy-dogOr even the well-meaning friend who posts some video with no explanation whatsoever. It could be the most amazing thing ever, but without making a case for why, people will not watch. I see this happening constantly. Every. Single. Day.

And any given TV show or movie out there. It will always begin with something that either sucks you in, or at very least gives you an idea of what you’re about to see… so you can decide whether to hang around or not.

Your videos must always give the audience a compelling reason for the audience to give of its precious, increasingly limited attention. Call it a cold open, a tease, an overview, or whatever. Just make sure you set the context so your audience gets it.

And once you’ve put that promise out there, deliver.

Speaking of which, I’ve written a book called EDIT BETTER: Hollywood-Tested Strategies For Powerful Video Editing.  It makes a pretty gutsy promise in its headline, it’s up to you to decide how it delivers.

Well played, The Google, well played.

Context and positioning are hugely important when it comes to communication. Google certainly knows this.

My friend Josh Forbes (a hugely talented director) posted the below video on Facebook – without resorting to any of the recently popular “What happened next will blow your mind” or “The most AMAZING THING EVER” descriptions (cheers to that, Mr. Forbes). I watched, and was caught off-guard – both from a human standpoint and from a storytelling perspective.

The idea of Google developing cars that drive themselves without any human intervention can be downright freaky on the surface of it. The idea of driving in Los Angeles with zero manual control of a car? God have mercy.  But clearly Google knows that, so what do they do? They focus on the human angle.

No matter how Skynet-esque Google might appear or actually be, Google folk know these cars won’t be sold by virtue of 3D graphics showing how technically advanced they are.  The cars are sold by the idea of life changing benefits – restoration of time with kids, restoration of freedom and independence for those who are no longer eligible to drive or never were able to drive in the first place.

As we shape our stories through our editing, feature elements that go beyond the mere surface context to the deeper, core elements that will touch your audience’s heart and mind. The first time I watched this, I got a bit emotional – especially with the blind gentleman.  The video’s not just about a car that drives itself;  in this one instance, the idea of a self-driving car is literally a key to a blind man’s freedom.

In the words of a gifted communicator who knew this idea inside and out:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  -Maya Angelou

Reasons to jump ship

jumpshipBrand new blog site, though we’ve been around for a while now.  The Power Edit’s site has been living on other servers, but somehow got tangled up with some spammers inserting shady stuff in our links. Yuck. So I figured, been wanting to break loose of some technical website stuff for quite a while, and the bulk of the content on the other servers is no longer used… ARRGHH. Grit teeth, switch over. If I ever actually need stuff from the other site, it’s accessible. At least by web folk who know what they’re doing.

Ongoing lesson: if the prospect of doing something makes me uncomfortable, that’s usually a sign I need to get over myself and do it.  Embrace the change.  Move on and focus on helping as many people as humanly possible tell better stories.

We help amateur and pro video editors reach the next level of creativity in your editing, no matter your editing tools.