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The politics of the edit

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The politics of the edit
on Jun 2, 2006 at 5:48:05 pm

I suppose inter-office politics and interpersonal relationships in the editing process fall under the "craft" category of this forum...

It happens all the time: The Director has his glorious, creative vision of how the movie should be but the Producers have their sellable perspective. And the editor is stuck in the middle, listening to it all and doing what she thinks is best.

For me this is the most challenging part of editing. Sometimes, it turns out the Producers want different GENRES (!) of movie from the Director! How do you deal with all the different opinions? (in L.A., everyone and their dentist has an opinion on how "it should be" etc.) and opposing viewpoints, especially when working on something that, perhaps, isn't going to plan...

Any tales?

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Tim Kolb
Re: The politics of the edit
on Jun 2, 2006 at 7:57:44 pm

This may not fit completely, but this week I was finalizing some regional spots that had been viewed multiple times...stop motion...the director uses photographs in 3 dimensional space...VERY cool and different look...anyway, one spot had the lead character in one of those padded Sumo (sp?) wrestler outfits...

Anyway, on the final day, the client decides that they didn't really care for the nipples and belly button on the costume.

How many of you can say that you spent the afternoon removing nipples and a belly button from a costume frame by frame in a shot? really doesn't fit the thread because there was no battle or was what the client wanted so we did it...however, I thought my 6 year old son was going to spew milk out of his nose when I told him how I spent my afternoon.

I can't figure out what else I would EVER do for a living that's this amusing...



Kolb Productions,
Creative Cow Host,

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mark Suszko
Re: The politics of the edit
on Jun 3, 2006 at 10:34:55 pm

Tim, I once had to do a similar thing, the actress they gave us for the spot had a dark cocoa colored mole the size of a postage stamp on her upper lip that looked like an offset Chaplin moustache. If it had been a documentary type of deal, I'd have left it, but since it was a commercial spot, and her face was an XCU, the spot was doomed unless I got rid of the Austin-Powers-moley-moley MOLE. Painted it out of most of thirty seconds worth of frames. Three times, as it was my first learning experience with Combustion's paint function, and the vector mask wasn't blending believeably for me....

But back to the initial question: The editor's first question would likely be: which of these guys signs the check? That guy is the final arbiter. That's the simple answer.

On a less mercenary note, it may depend on what kind of editor they were asking for, and how you see yourself: a mere button-pusher or a creative partner/collaborator. In the first case, you have zero say. In the second case, you may be able to argue the issue or offer alternate ideas.

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Re: The politics of the edit
on Jun 4, 2006 at 4:27:22 pm

Good day all,

I deal with this on a regular basis and it still baffels me how anything ever makes it to air. Whether its a :30 spot or the even when I am doing news. It doesn't seem to matter, but what does matter is the creative process of being an professional editor. Somewhere along the line you still try to have some creative input, but for the most part you are at the mercy of the client/agency or even more so the agencies client. So at the end of the day, we are painting out moles, nipples and belly buttons, because not everyone may have seen any of the fore mentioned items. So it wouldn't be in good taste to show the rest of the world. But at the end of the day, as long as the bill gets paid, we do what we have to do. And it makes me appreciate evenmore when I do get something I can sink my teeth into even more.

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mark harvey
Re: The politics of the edit
on Jun 5, 2006 at 5:52:42 pm

I like to be heavily involoved in the editing process. I will argue my points (of course politely) to help get my point across. If I do not have a valid point, then yes I have to bow to the powers that be. If I have made my case and the directory/agency still goes in their original direction, well at least I can take solace in the fact that I probably made them think about.

I am not now, nor do I ever hope to be a mere button pusher.


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Pixel Monkey
Re: The politics of the edit
on Jun 5, 2006 at 6:55:08 pm

What matters is WHY the Producer and Director decided to hire an editor. Lack of technical knowledge, or needed an editorial mind to partner with?

Many Producers and Directors don't include Editors in their creative conversations. This is not illegal, just a way of working that the Editor needs to weigh. If the paycheck is the primary goal, stay. If a creative editorial outlet is the goal, find new clients. Most of us like the give-and-take of a middle ground. (Low Ego Emissions - hee hee, thanx Volkswagen.)

Editorially, nothing beats working with great scriptwriting, photography and directing. It's the fire in which we burn. But full nods to an editor's input just don't come with every job. Heh, sometimes they come and go within the same job! Often, I've found that the hard-to-work-with businessman is the ideal client, not the cultured person. A cultured person knows what he/she wants, where as the businessman knows how to get what a great editor wants to give them. In that sense, the editor becomes a saught-after vender... rather than an implementor.

... and as far as the "how it should be" opinions go, take the mass population of L.A.'s Dentists in stride. ...and remember, they hunch over coffee breath and tartar scrapings all day. We have comfy chairs, mood lighting and tech support.

PS - a great way to find creative outlets as the "struggling artist editor" is to do student films. They're fast, fun and invigorating.

`(=)`/...Pixel Monkey

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Re: The politics of the edit
on Jun 9, 2006 at 2:11:09 pm

i deal with this heavily being a spot editor. i can't tell you how many layers of opinions there are (especially on bigger jobs). the trick is to show them and then explain why it isn't as great as what you originally intending. or if it is an improvement say thanks, great idea and move on. nobody paying the bills should feel like their opinion is nothing (unless it's an intern speaking out of turn of course). if you are a god in the industry, then you have more say. it's not a one or two revision deal these days for most however because the clients know it can be looked at quickly with the NLE. the trick is not to argue about it. show and discuss.

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Re: The politics of the edit
on Jun 9, 2006 at 6:24:38 pm

My sentiments exactly Person. While I typically spend my days by myself putting together news promotions, during sweeps I work with the news staff editing our big stories. Nothing is more important than taking into consideration the client's point of view (although my "client" is a reporter), even if the idea is a real stinker.

If you're a professional editor you should know your equipment well enough to put a client's idea together, or at least a rough cut of their idea, very quickly. I do it all the time, often duplicating the sequence, editing their idea, jumping back to the original sequence, editing my idea, and then we compare the two. Rarely takes more than a few minutes. More times than not we find elements that work from both ideas and end up with a better edit than if we had gone with only "their" idea or "my" idea.

Collaboration is key. If they want you to be a button pusher and you're determined to prove them wrong, take the initiative--come in early, cut it the way you think it should be cut, then offer it to them as an option. But offer it nicely and delicately. The worse that can happen is they say "no".


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Timothy J. Allen
Re: The politics of the edit
on Jul 7, 2006 at 10:39:56 pm

Wel said, promoboy! I want you on my team. ;-)

As an editor turned producer, let me weigh in from a producer's perspective...

I like working with Editors that offer their own ideas. I love to work with Editors that can "show me" their ideas. I really love working with editors that can show me their ideas quickly.

I do not like working with Editors that argue without offering solutions. I really do not like working with Editors that sit on their hands because they don't know how to use the features of their tools and equipment very well.

There are different types of producers, and I suppose that there is a "middle ground" here. Some Producers don't offer enough guidance to their Editors and some offer too little. You could say the same with Editors and their contributions. It's different with every relationship.

In my mind, the best edit sessions bring out the best talents of both the producer and the editor. There is an genuine exchange of ideas and mutual trust that works to make the final program better.

That exchange of ideas does not absolve my responsibility as a producer to make clear decisions and give clear direction that will guide the editor to creating a final product that makes the client happy, but if I trust the editor, and feel that they understand the purpose of the video, I'm pretty quick to take their suggestions.

BUt I guess that just like there are different types of producers, there are also different types of editors. If for instance, an editor sits on his or her hands and refuses to be anything but a button pusher, unfortunately I have to adjust accordingly... and I end up only expecting to get exactly what I spell out - nothing more nothing less. I sometimes wish that that type of editor would realize that it's their own attitude that limits their input into the product.

My ideas on how to treat an editor are very similar to my old boss's ideas about how to lead his teams. I'll post those ideas in another thread to see what you guys think.


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