My Short Film Adventure – Post Production Editing

What could be better than squeezing into a tight editing room with a professional editor and the director of a short film for many hours? If you ask me, the writer of said film, nothing could be better. 🙂

Paul, our editor; Hiroshi Hara our director and me ... intently editing a scene from Jordan's Jackhammer

Paul, our editor; Hiroshi Hara our director and me … intently editing a scene from Jordan’s Jackhammer

This week, I was invited to participate in two multi-hour editing sessions and it was thrilling to watch all the footage being crafted into the final product.

What’s especially satisfying is seeing how we are able to use so much of the wonderful work our actors gave us in take after take while the film was being shot. There are some really incredible moments based on the performances.

Ramon at the editing session

Ramon at the editing session

And although I won’t give away any of the jokes in the film (because it is a comedy, after all) what I can tell you is that some of the jokes are full on belly laughs. The pacing seems to be coming together nicely too.

There were some important lessons learned for me during this process too.

For example, when the script is X number of pages, it doesn’t account for any organic creative ideas that can spontaneously arise on set and might add to the total length of the piece.

Also, it’s probably obvious but … the number of days of shooting have a huge impact on what you have to work with in the editing room. We were extremely fortunate to have had four full days of filming for this short. And you’d think four days is a lot of coverage, and it is, but when it comes to the number of takes, the angles of a shot … all of that contributes to the choices available when everything is being pieced together.

For anyone that’s never been in an editing room, the process is fascinating. You are literally going through the film second by second. I’m not exaggerating. All four of us (see photos above) had an extended discussion about a 35 second “mini-scene” in the film and debated over whether or not that segment should be shortened to 29 seconds. We were split 50/50 for a while, but eventually decided to keep the full 35 second version in the film.

Yes, it’s that specific.

And while we got very close to a final version, we’re still not 100% completed with our editing yet. We’re going to have additional viewing time to provide feedback.

Once we have a “film lock,” it means the final length of the film is locked and set. Once that happens, the footage can be handed over to our sound design guy for sound and sound effects (which are numerous throughout), and our composer for the music, and also for voice over talent too. (Yeah, we are pretty fancy shmancy!)

I was extremely encouraged by our editor’s comments that “the production values are very high” on our little film. If they are, it’s due to the wonderful backing of our executive producers Ramon and Mike, of course supported by the cast and crew. (The script may have had a little to do with it too. ;-D)

Now, if we’re very fortunate, once everything is done and ready to be shown… our executive producers will be able to get this short film into some film festivals too. But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself; that would be another posting in the future!


Editorial Relief

Sooo, for the past six weeks, I’ve been helping one of my very best friends in the whole world by re-editing his mammoth novel manuscript. We’re talking over 500 pages people!

I have to admit, I enjoy editing. It’s crazy, but I actually like it. But when you’re inside a project so big and you’re right in the middle, I don’t know about anybody else but I felt light headed (proverbially speaking) when I approached the material.

Another way to describe it might be: a sense of dread.

And yet, when I allowed myself to be drawn into the characters and the story, and because I knew I was shaping and re-shaping the material into something more magnificent… well, I felt downright gratified.

Over the past week I started pushing to complete the work. I built up some momentum with my editing, even though my own personal writing, my blog posting, and my submissions to journals was suffering… because I wanted to see the project through.

Today was the day I finished the re-edit. Yes, there will be bits of clean up and discussions with the author on sections which are (still) problematic, but on the whole I will not have to revisit the material wholesale. Thank goodness.

One lovely bit of information to share… I got so into the characters, and the story, that today while I was editing the last three chapters I cried. I’m not big on crying, so for me it was huge to be so moved by the material. (I don’t recall crying the first time I edited the mss, unless I cried when he emailed it to me because of its size! :-D)

So, I hope this milestone will signify a more regular return to my blog postings, dear reader. And a return to my own writings, and lit mag submissions in my future.

WHEW, it feels damn good to be done!

P.S. There will be more posts to come about this novel when the time is right. I’m a huge fan of the book, and of course, the amazing author, my dear friend George.

A few words on editing

Just when you think it’s done with you – it pulls you back in. No, I’m not talking about the Mafia, I’m talking about the manuscript you just finished for your short story or novel.

A brief word on Strunk & White’s Elements of Style: Get it. Use it.

The best advice Strunk & White ever gave? OMIT NEEDLESS WORDS. Here’s the quote:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

If it was easy to follow we’d all have perfect, tight manuscripts but that’s not what we’ve got kids, right?

As a rule of thumb, cut 10-15% of your manuscript (yes, even for flash fiction pieces!) when you edit. Be ruthless. That section where the main character recedes into the background, and it’s not moving the plot forward? It’s got to go. It doesn’t matter how great the phrasing is or how much you love those sentences. They aren’t doing anything for the story.

From the feedback I’ve gotten from editors over the last few years, it’s safe to recommend removing all adverbs from your work or the vast majority of them. Think of words ending in LY, like admiringly, or frustratingly.

As Stephen King says in On Writing (a great, amusing reference book to own…) cut any adverbs used to modify the word SAID.

Never write this: “Does my butt look fat in these jeans,” she said cheekily.

King’s point is adverbs weaken the writing. When a writer is insecure about their writing, they can hide behind adverbs to emphasize a point. It’s a way of directing the reader when the writing isn’t clear enough. Anyway, King says it’s a weak-ass move, and I agree.

Who needs an adverb when you’ve got verbs like smash, tickle, illuminate, and love?

Right behind the clean-up of adverbs is the removal of adjectives. I’ve found this challenging because you’ll no longer have a blue dress. But you could have a frock, or a gown. You won’t have a gigantic bowl of pasta, just the linguine remains. When you stop relying on adjectives, you find a new way of using more descriptive nouns, which strengthens the writing.

There are other bad habits to avoid, and I refer you to my other post This About That for your reading pleasure.

Here’s what we covered today:

– Have a good reference library, especially Strunk & White’s Elements of Style

– Omit needless words

– Get rid of adverbs

– Remove adjectives

Good luck with your edits!

Feel free to pass along your editing advice in the Comments section – you know you want to share those gems so go ahead!