- Hi, everyone. In this episode of The Filmmaking Forum Conversations Course, we're dedicating the entire segment to working with assistant editors. This is everything from preparing the assistant, to the importance of being specific and nailing down a solid workflow. We'll also discuss demanding the best, but still treating assistants with great respect. I hope you enjoy. - Before I even get to the assistant, I definitely want to be in touch with the DP, and the director, and the producer, and understand exactly how we're shooting.
You know, what camera are we shooting on, how many cameras, is there gonna be, um, you know, is it gonna be synced with timecode, or how is that gonna work, just so I know the sort of, the most streamlined process we can get for post. So usually in the feature world, there's not a post supervisor, so I end up sort of being the one who gets to dictate kind of the best practice for getting the dailies and then starting editing. Um, so once I know the camera, and sort of the media format, and how quickly they can get a turn around, then I'll meet with the assistant.
One of the most important things is being really specific. Teaching them exactly what you want. - The most important thing, I believe, is that you have to have very specific guidelines about who does what and when. There has to be clear communication where you literally, I will get it down to the smallest minute detail, where I will say to my assistant, 'cause we're attached on all the emails, so I will say to her, "Listen, "when we get something that's pertinent to us, "this type of email goes here, "or this type of email goes here, "or this type of information is placed here." So there's never any question of, "Hey, did you get that one email?" Like, basically, we're just wired into each other's brains as far as communication.
- Part of the cool thing when they're working for you, is that they get to learn a tried and tested system of organization, and then they learn, you know, they can learn how to sync, they learn how to work with different formats of media. So either I meet with them in person, or sometimes I can't if they're shooting out of state or something. In that case, I'll record, you know, like a tutorial on my computer that's really specific. Where it's like, you know, a screen cast of the actual program, and I'll show them step by step, "This is exactly how I want you to do it. "This is how I like my labeling." And, you know, all that.
- And then when it comes to workflow as far as doing scenes, she will always have the same responsibilities on a scene, or an assembly, or whatever it is, and I'll always have the same responsibilites, so we get to a point where I don't even really have to ask her to do things. Like for example, when I do my first cut of a scene, it goes into a specific bin. She'll take it from that bin, do her sound pass. When it's done, she puts it into another bin. I do my second pass, build it into an act. And none of this requires communication, 'cause we've done it enough that she just knows, "Oh, I see that there's something in that bin.
"That must mean that I have to do X, Y and Z." And if there's something that's not specific, or it's like, "Oh, you wouldn't know to put this effect in, "but I want this here," I just use markers in the sequence and write her notes. So we do communicate, but we've gotten to the point where I've created a communication workflow where we could go days without ever having to IM each other or talk at all, and we'd still be able to work, 'cause we know with every step of the process what each of us needs to do. So we get through out first cuts pretty quickly.
- I want everyone on my team to understand that work that leaves the cutting room environment has to be perfect. Because on studio movies, there cannot be mistakes made, because the financial repercussions of mistakes coming out of editorial are considerable. And so the most important thing I say to assistants is that their work has to be right. And never, ever rush it. And never tell me something is done unless you've double-checked it.
And if you're too tired to check it, get another assistant to check it. Everything has to be immaculately presented, and perfectly labeled, and look completely professional all the time. Um, and I never want the producers to feel like they've had substandard work. They have to know that they can trust us. - Both assistants and editors serve a very vital role in the post-production process.
And you have to communicate, you have to work together, you have to kind of talk about what each other needs to be successful. I've been an assistant where the editors like, for instance, don't pay attention to where they cut in dialogue, or sound effects, or music, so the tracks are all weird. And so that adds like hours and hours upon my day as an assistant. So now as an editor, I try to be very conscientious of that, and like, "Okay, one and two are dialogue, "four through 10 are sound effects, "and music's on the bottom." You know, that sort of thing.
Because I know what that does to the workload of an assistant, and I'd rather them be focusing on the creative side as opposed to just, you know, the organizational wor of turning over a cut and that sort of thing. So I'd rather that time be spent more useful. - I think as long as they're comfortable, then I'm gonna be comfortable, and that once we get sort of, like, further into the film, and they're a little bit more on autopilot with their stuff, then I love to let them, you know, cut a few scenes or something, and then give them feedback. And I hope that I can help them get wherever they want to go in terms of editing as well.
- I encourage my assistants to cut at least one scene a week from the dailies that have arrived in the cutting room. Because I think it's very important to practice editing if you can. And when you're working on films, you have access to incredible footage, raw footage. I remember very early in my career, I almost got a job as an assistant editor on the first Harry Potter film. I remember thinking to myself... "If I had got that job, "then I would have just stayed there "til midnight every day, editing Harry Potter." And no one would ever have seen it apart from me, but the point is, the editor normally won't mind if you're working on a film and you want to stay late and cut stuff, you should absolutely do that.
Some assistants are happy to be career assistant editors. They're very, very good at the data management, and media management, and labeling, and organization that is necessary for being a terrific assistant editor as well. Um, but those of them who want to edit, I try to encourage to edit as much as they can.
- Advice for novice filmmakers entering the industry
- Finding, enhancing, and tweaking your story
- Experimenting in filmmaking
- Solving problems and troubleshooting your film
- Changing your approach or finding new angles
- Communicating and collaborating on set and in the edit room—and with clients
- Working on different genres of film
- Teaching and mentoring new filmmakers