Join Ashley Kennedy for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding Monica's working style and process in various genres, part of Conversations in Video Editing.
- Can you take us through, maybe, a typical, or at least an example of, from a concept to creation to delivery, what it's like for you when you get hired onto a show and through the process of actually editing it? - Okay. Well, I work on a lot of documentary. And to me, kind of, reality falls under that same genre, because you're trying to achieve the same purpose. You're telling the story of these, you know, real people. And sometimes I get scripts, sometimes I don't.
But the first thing I always do is, I try to see, okay, what's the goal? What's the goal of the show, the overall picture? And then from there, it's, like, you break it down. What are the goals of the individual acts or sections? And then within that, what are the goals of the individual scenes? And you just break it up. Because you keep all the pieces in mind, but then, once you really start working on it, you just gotta focus on that section, making that section work.
It's, like, you always need to break it down to something manageable, or you're gonna drive yourself crazy. And then, so it's like, you make sure that that story works. And, you know, sometimes, once that story works, you know, and you have all your A roll strung out and you've cut it down, you cleaned up the dialog, depending on what I'm working on, I might do, like, music next. A lot of shows like walk along music, and they like to approve that music.
So, you know, sometimes I might do the music after that, once it's kind of cut down, to make sure we got the right tone, the right feel, where we're changing it up at the right places. Sometimes the music will come later, if that's not as important for the producer to see early on, if they're, like, "Yeah, that's fine." And then we'll figure it out after, you know. Or we have a composer, and he's, like, composing music to the piece. Then I don't need to put music in. And then from there, you know, it's really about, like, the coverage, the B roll, so the audience isn't just looking at a talking head the whole time.
But it's, like, you're always trying to find that emotion and put that dynamics in it. And it's, like, with the visual, sometimes we get video, sometimes it's just pictures. And just really ... you know, helping to tell that story through the music and the pictures. And then, a lot of times what we'll do is, like, we usually never, or I never like to ... I never want it to look like I just put, like, slapped the picture in the ... Sometimes footage, you could get way with if it's archival. You just kind of make sure it looks clean.
But if it's, like, a picture, pictures are so flat. And it's, like, you don't want the image to look flat. So maybe you will add, like, a small little effect. You know, the effects come after, and nice little gradients or vignettes, to to make it pop a little more and not, it doesn't look like a slideshow. And I know different networks do different things and they have different philosophies about it. But me personally, I don't want it to be, like, I don't want this to look like a slideshow. Even if it's just a vignette on the picture, like, something to give it some depth.
Because it is a visual medium. - Can you take us through what it's, specifically, rough cut to fine cut, and all of the communication that you have with the various people as you arrive at that finished product? - Well, I feel like there's no such thing as a rough cut anymore, as far as a first screening. The rough cut is basically stuff either only I or the producer I'm working with directly is seeing. So we have to work pretty fast. You know, no sloppy cuts, obviously.
As little slides as possible. Even if, unless it's something really specific, just try to find something that's not a slide, if we could get away with it, to cover it with and then, you know, replacing it later. So it's kinda the, in those three stages, and, you know, just the notes process, it could go anywhere from a day to weeks, especially if it's a new show, and the network's trying to figure out what they want. And, you know, it's, like, they shot it one way and they're, like, "But we want this," and we're, like, "But we didn't shoot it like that," and, like, "We want it anyway," and have to try to rework everything and everything becomes a mess.
Because at that point it is like a fine cut. So we have to move all of our sound effects, we have to move, change all our music, and it can get really, really messy sometimes. And that's when you need to stay calm. - Right. (both laugh) - I always, I always do things in passes. Some editors work where they're, like, refining as they go or they're, like, nitpicking everything. But when I do it like that, I feel like I'm not getting anything done, because it's, like, "Oh, this first minute looks really nice, "and then the rest of the act looks like "a string-out." Like, that drives me crazy.
So I like to break everything down and do it in passes. So that way, I could focus on one particular aspect. And I do that across, like, any genre I'm cutting, I will do it in passes, like, assembly line style, where it's, like, I'm just gonna do all the dialog first. That's all I'm doing. And I'm able to get through it faster because my mind's already in, like, that mode, because, you know, when I'm working, I'm working music, my mind's in a different place. If I'm doing coverage, my mind's gonna be in a completely different place.
And so, I'm able to get through things quickly by doing it in passes. And that's something someone early on told me, when I was first started editing and I was trying to figure out, like, what was the best way to work for me and my brain. And that's what I found really works for me. But that doesn't work for everyone. It, like, drives them nuts to leave stuff raw. You know, when I'll get sequences and they're, like, "Hey, can you finish this up?" And I look at it, I'm, like, "Come on, you guys. "You've worked on the first 30 seconds all day yesterday? "What about the rest of the act? "Not even to that point yet." It drives me crazy.
- What about when you're cutting multi cam? What strategies do you, kind of, zero in on when you're cutting multi cam versus single cam? - Well, multi cam, that's the same thing. That's the one you definitely have to do in passes. What happens is, you know, they shot a finite amount. And if they shot an hour and a half, and you have a 22 minute show to cut, you need to get that cut down. And the problem with the multi cam shows is, you know, you have all these iso mics. And you need them all strung out, for the mixer.
And so, you know, I'll lay everything out and I color code all the cameras. And not everyone does this, but I'm a very visual person. And so I get all that done first. And from there, I literally just do passes to start taking chunks out for the sequence. And, you know, some of the stuff is obvious, and some of the stuff we'll get field notes on where, like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, cut this section out." And we're just, like, "Done. Easy. "Closer to time, yes!" I love it when they give me those notes, except when it makes the show too short. That's a pain in the butt.
And then, you know, I'll go through and I don't even worry about cameras. And I never use line cut cameras because they're always changing at the wrong time and I just, I wanted to make it feel, like, nice and seamless. And it never feels seamless. You're always missing something if you try using the line cut that they did in-studio. So I completely ignore visuals and I just completely focus on audio. Because, for multi cam shows, it's all about what they're saying. They're either game shows or they're interview shows.
Usually. I mean, reality is a whole another beast. But so, I just get the audio, making it sound like a natural conversation, and just cleaning up those transitions where I've made cuts. Then, after that, I literally go through and I will change all the cameras. And I'll do it, like, live where I do the multi cam editing. And, you know, that can never be exact. So it's, like, I'll do a section at a time. We'll do, like, a minute long section at a time or a conversation, no subject. And I'll go through that section and I'll watch it again and I'll literally just, like, trim the shots when it changes, just to clean it up.
And then I'll move on to the next section. - When you have a music video or something that is music-driven, like the clip we're about to watch, what strategies besides simply edit on the cuts, or cut on the beats, can you offer someone who might be starting off in that sort of genre? - Well, yeah, for something that's very music driven, definitely cut on beats. But it doesn't have to be every single beat, and it doesn't have to be the upbeat. It could be the down beat, if you ...
Because when you always cut on the same beat and you don't change it up, it gets stagnant. It gets boring, it gets blah. It's when you add those dynamics, where you're just, kind of, like, changing on the beats you're cutting on or the accents in the music, that you really add some fun to it. And also, don't just look at where to cut. Look at what's happening in your shot. Because that was one of the things that caught the attention of people and why I was able to, the first time I really was able to cut a show open is, I was cutting these, like, little seven-second montages, and they were all just, like, it was just nonsense.
It's just, like, "Hey! Hey, what's up" and, you know, with lots of effects puked on them. And, you know, that's how people would cut them. I'm just, like, "All right. (vocalizes) Done." But, you know, that gets kind of boring after the 30th montage. And so what I started doing is, I would look at the gestures within the cut and see what people were doing. And then I would speed manipulate them, so they would ramp up and hit on a beat.
So I wasn't cutting on the beat. I was making whatever was happening in the shot happen on a beat. So it's, like, the shot itself had, like, a rhythm to it. And so, that's what I would suggest doing. Look beyond the cuts to what's happening within the shots.