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8 Tips for Working With an Editor On Your Film or TV Project

Whether this is your first time collaborating with an editor or you just want the process to go more smoothly, here are some things to consider.

A woman edits a short film on two computer monitors.
Editing "All Is Well," one of the 6 short films made for the August 2022 Women's Weekend Film Challenge, a Moonshot Initiative program. (Photo by Attiyya Settle)

If you’re a filmmaker who has never worked with an editor before, you may not know how to effectively communicate what deliverables you’ll need, and you might be unsure how to make the best use of both of your time.

Here are some tips that might come in handy, regardless of your project type or budget:

  1. Create a realistic budget. There are many aspects of post-production that you’ll need to account for, such as editing, post sound mixing, color correction and composing a score — not to mention any visual effects (VFX). Within each of these categories, there may be additional costs on top of post-production personnel: ADR/voiceover/loop groups, foley, sound effects, music licensing and more. In terms of your editor, does she have a day rate, or are you paying a set fee for the project? How many rounds of revisions/notes are included in the fee?

  2. Communicate the turnaround time. Work with your editor to determine a realistic time frame that takes into account notes and revisions.

  3. Share your planned usage and specs. Will your project live on YouTube or social media, or will you be submitting to film festivals? Do the film festivals you want to submit to require the film to be in a certain format? 

  4. Be specific about your vision. To make best use of your editor’s time — and to save yourself money — you’ll want to go into your collaboration with as precise a vision as possible. For example:

  • What’s the general roadmap for the project?

  • Are there any examples of similar projects you can show your editor to get on the same page?

  • Note: It’s helpful to show examples that are roughly in the same budget range that you’re working with. For example, don’t show your VFX artist clips from a Marvel movie if you’re working on a shoestring budget. If you use a major brand’s commercial as something your small business wants to emulate, be specific about what you like — is it the pacing and tempo? Or are you hoping for the custom graphics that your editor isn’t going to be able to replicate?

  • If you want your editor to create a sizzle or trailer, how many seconds should it be? Make sure to watch other sizzles/trailers to get a sense of the length — it might surprise you how short some are!

  • Are there specific lines, takes or shots that must be included?

  • What kind of temp tracks do you want your editor to include? (This is the temporary music that will help you see the full picture of the edited project, even if you don't have a score from your composer or licensed soundtrack music yet.)

  1. Understand what’s realistic with your budget and footage. No matter how talented your editor is, she can’t make your low-res footage appear as if it was shot in 4K, and she can’t create footage that’s not there. Post-production fixes like color and sound can only take you so far.

  2. Be clear about the chain of command. Are you working with a post-production supervisor who will oversee the post-production team? Are people reporting to you directly?

  3. Organize your files. If you know which takes you want to use, indicate them; don’t make the editor guess. If you have specific fonts and color codes associated with the project, make sure to share them.

  4. Take a bird’s-eye view of your project. Many creatives — especially multi-hyphenates who are intimately involved with every aspect of the project — might find it difficult to hand over the reins to an editor when it comes time to begin post-production. Of course, as the filmmaker, you still have control over your project, but film is a collaborative art with many puzzle pieces at play. If you directed, wrote and starred in your short film, you may have a preferred acting take, for example — but your editor may discover that there are sound issues with the take that can’t be fixed. Or perhaps you’ll find in the edit that a comedic line you loved is falling flat. Be willing to “kill your darlings” for the sake of the end result.

Three women look at two computer monitors and a laptop while editing a short film.
Collaborating on "Heard of Who?" (one of the 6 films made during the August 2022 Women's Weekend Film Challenge in NYC). (Photo by Vanessa Clifton)

We hope your next post-production process goes smoothly!

Are you an editor who has any additional tips for making the process go smoothly? Filmmakers, did you find communication methods that have worked for you? Share them in the comments!

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