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As some editors say, the film is mine until the fine cut. Reaching the fine cut means the film has entered a stage of intense collaboration. It is during this period that an editor must ensure that the film's story, direction, and style are in sync with the film's vision. This begins with a screening of the rough cut and proceeds through several more versions of cuts until picture lock. So, after you've completed the rough cut, you should screen it as much as possible and take very detailed notes on people's feedback, both good and bad.
You should not only screen it for a director and other stakeholders, but, also to general audiences that are not invested in the success of the film. Screening the film to people who are not too close to it can be extremely valuable in telling you what works and what doesn't. Now first, the editor usually works closely with the director to tweak, reorder, cut, and add scenes, combing through every shot and every sequence and discussing every element of the story and structure. Because of this, this version of the fine cut is often called the Director's cut.
For a documentary, the time spent on the Director's cut can be pretty extensive, especially if the editor was not working from a defined script. This collaboration is really important in closing the gap between the director's original vision and the editor's creation. So, if you think about it there exists this tension between three different stories that will flush out during this process. You've got one, the story the director tries to tell based on the original concept for the film. In almost all cases this idea evolves during production as does the director's overall vision.
Then you have the story the editor realizes through editing the film's rough cut. And finally, you have the final edited version, which is the collaboration between these two visions. Now, after the director has had an opportunity to oversee the cuts, he will often show the film to other important collaborators and during this period the film is further aligned with the interests of all involved. Of course, going through all of these various versions of cuts, that must address all of these people's intentions and desires can be interesting and sometimes stressful.
Conflict between editors, directors, producers, and other stakeholders have been known to occur, whether it be over creative control, budgetary issues or contradictory goals. But usually a successful film results with the picture lock aligning near the goals of most all involved. Once this agreement is reached, the editor arranges for the final color correction and sound design and then distributes the film in multiple formats depending on the deliverable requirements.
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