Here's an article I've found useful to email younger or newer filmmakers. It's convenient because nearly every cautionary piece of advice an editor can bark at an inexperienced producer/director is in there.
It's especially useful for the student filmmaker who believes the wealth of all knowledge of camerawork pales before anything shot with a mini-DV camera.
A picture says 1000 words. Editors give them meaning.
Great reading... but I'll go one further and say it's not only for young or inexperienced filmmakers. I found a couple of things or more that old hacks like us should be doing, probably used to do...but got tired, lazy, or complacent.
I am lucky in that I usually also direct and shoot what I edit, so I am always thinking up coverage and alternative angles and whatnot. I can look honetsly at what's being shot and know what I will be doing with the footage as the editor, and what I might need later for coverage.
In my projects I only occasionally get to use "real" actors. Real actors can deliver with consistency, and this lets you do things like run thru a scene more than one time for wide and tight shots, single-camera, and everything will tend to cut together pretty well because the actors are doing everything the same for each take. It's part of their skills most people don't appreciate. Late at night after editing for hours, it is so wonderful to be able to cut between five different takes and notice the little bit of business with the drink glass or cigarette or posture or position or whatever is exactly right in each one.
But when I have to do a 2 or 3-person scene using non-pros, I tend to shoot it with two cameras, one for wide coverage and one for singles, because no single take of the scene will play exactly the same way each time. The second camera seems like an extravagance at times for these kinds of simple projects, but it's the only way to make sure I have the matching coverage and cut-aways I need later. It costs a little more up front but absolutely saves time in the edit later, plus it delivers a better overall quality.
When the shooting situation allows, I can also sometimes break the second camera free to go set up in advance for another scene nearby, then my non-pro "actor" can walk into the next scene and we're ready to go without that 'cooling off' downtime of setup that leads to the actor getting stale and forgetting their emotional states.
I completely agree with Mark... actors make all the difference in the world.
I try whenever I can to use "real" actors... although I often have to beg clients to let me do so. They usually just can't seem to comprehend at first why their Aunt Marge...who would be perfect in the role... isn't the best choice. I usually try to convince them that it will be cheaper in the long run to hire a pro (which is totally true). If a shoot takes three times as long to finally get something semi-usable from the "talent" on the 20th take... then they have already spent more (for poorer results) than it would have cost to hire a pro who could have nailed it in two takes.
You can also never predict when non-pro talent will be good... or bad. Sometimes you can get surprisingly good performances. More often, not. Around here we still re-tell the story of a commercial shoot for a dentist we did a couple of years ago. This guy is very bright, personable, photogenic, and obviously educated... we thought he would do fine on camera. My general manager encouraged us to bring a teleprompter as the guys were loading the truck for the shoot. I nixed it... we didn't need it... it was ONE LINE, literally nine words that the guy had to deliver.
It probably took, oh, maybe 50 takes. He just couldn't remember (or deliver) the line. I probably burned up 1200 feet of 35mm to get this one line.... we were wasting so much film that I finally stopped slating takes... decided to wait until we got a good take, then tail slate it. This was a very low-budget job, so I kept imagining that the footage counters on the magazines were actually counting down our rapidly disappearing profits.
I also agree with Mark, it's important to shoot for the editor. For quite a few years I was always my own director/DP/shooter/editor... and I always knew exactly what was going to be needed because I knew how it was going to be cut, because I was cutting it. When my company got big enough that I had other people editing my stuff (who admitadly can cut better than me... don't skimp on hiring the very best editor that you can afford) I had to keep reminding myself to increase coverage a bit. My senior editor Joey usually pulls double duty and crews as soundman on location shoots, which is a GREAT help... because he was there, knows what was happening, saw with his own eyeballs what I shot, and is able to pick up on my vision via some sorty of telepathy that he seems to have developed. And he is always welcome to suggest shots or coverage that he thinks will be helpful.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.