A movie can have fabulous actors, a compelling story and be beautifully filmed but without good editing your audience will still be running for the doors. Independent films fall roughly into three categories: those that are A Cut Above, those that have potential and all the rest. Here are ten tips to get your movie into that first group.
1. Don’t use Independent Film as a platform to tell your life’s story. To begin with the format is wrong. Life stories take time and there is precious little of it in a movie. ‘Film what you know’ isn’t literal unless you are Oprah. No amount of editing can save the average home movie
2. Budget plenty of time and money for post-production. Just because you are an Independent Filmmaker and you don’t have a big score or tons of special effects doesn’t mean that post-production isn’t important. If anything the opposite is true. Independent Films have precious few bells and whistles to hide behind. Therefore your editing and your movie has to be even better and more flawless to be A Cut Above Indie film.
3. Choose your editor carefully. Hire the best editor you can. Above all you must like their work. Take time to talk to other people they have worked for and take even more time to view the films they have worked on.
4. Good editors aren’t genre specific. Just because you are making a horror film doesn’t mean you should limit your choices of editors. For many reasons someone outside the genre may be perfect.
5. Trust your editor. By the time you get into the late stages of editing you will be far too close to the film to honestly evaluate it. A good editor can pull you and your film back to reality. If your editor is your best buddy they might not have the stomach to tell you what you need to hear. On the other hand if you can’t trust them for any number of reasons they are useless to you.
6. After the first edit look at the story line again and make sure it still flows flawlessly. You know the back-stories that have been cut but your audience will be clueless if you cut out something crucial.
7. Edit at least one time based strictly on emotional flow. Map the movie out if you have to and make sure you have grabbed the audience, drawn them into the film, created enough tense moments to keep them interested and provided them with an emotionally satisfying or unsatisfying (if that’s your point) ending. Film is story telling and good stories illicit emotions.
8. Don’t get too attached to any footage. Just because it took you 129 takes doesn’t mean that scene should stay in the movie.
9. Screen your movie. Screen your movie and get audience feedback. Edit it and screen it again. Screen it as many times as you can before making the final cut. Audience feedback can be indispensable information for both you and your editor.
10. Shorter is often better. This is true of writing and it’s true for Independent Films. The lack of elaborate post-production facilities, the shortened attention span of the average viewer and a world filled with stimulus makes your job as an Independent Filmmaker very difficult. Give yourself a break by establishing a limit and sticking to it.