How much do you stick to script?
Say you get a full script for an edit, timecodes for every shot. How much would you generally deviate from the paper edit?
The general consensus in our shop is: Don't touch the a-roll unless you're cutting the show down for time, but b-roll is open season - change as much as you want to/have time for. I'm a script changer - most of the projects I get don't have an established format, so I'm not shy about cutting, adding, or even asking for a rewrite in extreme cases. Our producers are pretty hands-off and don't usually show up until after the rough cut.
I just got a bunch of structural changes on a documentary with a tight schedule. . . and saw most of them coming. The producer disagreed with me, so I left the problems in. The changes came from management, and the rough cut's already gone to the client. Ack.
Well... It depends...
On your relationship with your client.
And their relationship with their client.
And on the job spec. And on how loud a voice the people who like your cut have. And whether it fits the timeslot. And whether the timeslot has changed since 2:00 O'Clock. And the tide... And the phase of the moon....
My reputation was built around the fact I used the script as a rough cut. If I felt a word could be changed and would make better sense and maybe even grammatically better, I did it, My clients who had worked with me for years expected I would do it. They were surprised if I didn't change something. New clients usually were told (since most of my new clients came by word of mouth) that I would pretty much control the edit, unless they wre adamant about something, then I would allow that letting them know I was doing it under protest.
Now dont get me wrong, I am a pussycat in the edit bay, but I have always fought for what I believed was right. It was expected of me to do so. I have never been a button pusher that does only what was laid out to do. Ya gotta put some of you in the project.
Now don't get fired from telling your boss or clients that you are doing this this way cause Charlie said you should. Walk lightly atr forst, build up that reputation, then you have the right to do what you feel strongly is correct.
I have a freer hand on projects where the clients are not entirely sure what they want, or if the script is pretty loose. Then I unleash my full creative force on it.
OTOH, if they come in with a paid-for script and time coded selects, it's time to be a team player. That doesn;t mean you don;t point out things that are bad or wrong or that could be improved, just that you don'y insist on any of that, you offer, they either take it or they don't and you press on.
In a few cases where I felt really strongly about something, I made a separate sub-timeline with the alternate version, then showed it during a lunch break or something like that. Sometimes they go for it, other times they've made up their minds and you're not going to change them. Then you go home and kick the dog.
By virtue of the job it is required that you do deviate a little at least from a script.
If the producer etc scripted a programme and handed you a timecoded 'paper edit' that required no editorial input, there would alas be no need for all of us editors, instead a machine would be invented that assembled the programme as per instructed.
Collaboration is always the name of the game in any production. Every player brings something to the mix and the editor is by no means an exception. You get paid to bring a knowledge of how best to gel a programme togther, so you should always feel free to flex that ability when you feel its needed.
As some people on here have said, sometimes your hands forced by a determined and often narrow minded client, but thats not your problem, advise and move on.
Good luck and have fun :D
[Nina] "Say you get a full script for an edit, timecodes for every shot. How much would you generally deviate from the paper edit?"
Have you tried asking the client, "Do you want this to be a frame-for-frame copy of what's in the paper edit, or do you want us to make suggestions?"
The client may fear that deviating from the paper edit will lead to more expense, or to antagonizing someone in their own organization who had signed off on a specific approach.
I can recall, in the days when I had to go to an expensive post house to finish a show, that I really just wanted the editors to use their fancy equipment to make a high-quality COPY of what I handed them. I did not go to them for their creativity -- I just wanted an online edit of what I had created in offline, as cheaply as possible.
Bob, makes a lot of sense, but it's a bit of a different situation. We don't offline/online, just one editor from beginning to end. I usually keep the same idea as the script, but fix small mistakes like not enough cover, wrong timecode, or poorly-chosen b-roll. If I think we need a major change, I give the heads-up to the producer or my boss, and let somebody else make the call. Most of the time my input is appreciated, even if it doesn't make the final cut.
On the project I've been working on, the schedule was so tight that I cut it almost exactly to script. The producer and I didn't see eye-to-eye on the structure; I voiced my opinion and was overruled. The feedback we got from his boss and the client seems to agree with me, but he still doesn't get it. I'm forseeing *many* rounds of changes, and wondering if there was anything I could have done differently. :-(
[Nina] "I'm forseeing *many* rounds of changes, and wondering if there was anything I could have done differently."
No, it sounds like you followed your instincts and did what you could. There are some who don't get it and will not even consider the experienced editor's suggestions. In these cases you just push the buttons.
[Bob Cole] "I just wanted an online edit of what I had created in offline, as cheaply as possible."
In a situation like this you make yuor wishes known before the edit session starts so the editor knows he is to be a button pusher and you are not interested in his input.
I've always used paper edits as a rough cut (not least because I've yet to meet anyone who can paper edit effectively to duration). However I also frequently version my sequences, so I can recover things I have removed, or revert to an earlier cut in the director requires it.
Most of the serious offline work I have done has been reality series - and in those cases I've been give quite a lot of control, the paper edits have been pretty much a story line and listing of useful grabs and elements. I often reorder and cut them down heavily.
It will depend on your role, and the accuracy of the paper edit as to how much flexability you have.
I'm quite good at convincing producers to do it my way when I think things are wrong (without being pushy). With situations like yours it can be really frustrating when you have a higher up with a different vision come in and make big changes, especially when it seems that the producer you're working with isn't in step with the higher ups.
I'd say use the skills you were hired for to make the changes you can when things are really wrong - but only if you can do it without causing trouble... otherwise you'll have to rough it out.
It comes down to how your client views your services - have they hired you for your knowledge and skill, or simply as a machine operator. Sadly it's often the latter, and that can be really frustating.
"It comes down to how your client views your services - have they hired you for your knowledge and skill, or simply as a machine operator."
Ha, this is kind of funny. I feel like they've hired me as a machine operator, but expect the result of someone with knowledge and skill. I'm told to let the producer choose all of the shots, yet after the rough cut I'm inevitably asked to replace them. I'm told not to spend time on graphics, but when I sneak them in, I'm praised for my design work. The total creative direction I get is "here's some tapes," yet I'm expected to pull a TV show out of a script with no vision whatsoever.
Yesterday, one producer told me that putting a still image over a moving background was "not high-end enough." Today, my other producer couldn't understand why I refused to use footage from an oxide tape so old it came in a locking box.
3rd round of changes on first segment. Four more segments facing a scratch recut. Air date looming.
I've finished episodes less than 24 hours before broadcast in the past. After a 22 hour shift to make all the executive producer's changes that the Producer should have seen coming.
What doesn't kill you...