Day Twenty-three – Taking Criticism

Ah screening days, the day that your weeks of hard work gets trampled on…

Okay maybe it’s not that bad, but it can feel that way sometimes. We tend to pour ourselves into our cuts. Every decision an editor makes is justified through what needs to happen in the scene. One shot gets chosen over another not necessarily because it’s better, but because it works better within the context of the scene. But alas, when you are screening a cut only the editor knows these reasons. I like to explain why I made a particular edit decision whenever it is questioned. Sometimes that is all it takes for me to keep an edit in a cut, but other times the explanation leads to a discussion of other options within the scene. This is where collaboration and knowing how to receive criticism comes into play.

As the editor, you are generally the one person who sees everything in a production, but that doesn’t mean that only your choices about the cut are valid. We work as part of a team and we have to be able to listen to the suggestions of other team members and incorporate those ideas into a cut. I try not to argue with producers when they give me notes. Often I will explain why I made a cut and then if I feel strongly about not changing it try to get the producer to understand my reasoning. But an editor needs to understand that good criticism is not a personal attack, it is intended to make a show better. Good notes should always be implemented when they can be. You don’t want to be seen as someone who is difficult to work with, so don’t fight the notes unless you absolutely have to.

One of the great things about my current gig is that I’m left to make a lot of decisions on my own. However, that also makes it challenging when we get to screening days. Questions sometimes arise and I need to have an answer and/or a solution ready. This is why it is so important to know your footage and know what happens in a scene. More often than not, notes make a show better. Keep that in mind next time you’re ready to fight someone over a minor change.

Ok, now I need to go address the notes from my screening…


About danwolfmeyer

Dan is a Freelance Film/TV editor in Los Angeles, California. He lives on a ranch in the San Fernando Valley with his wife and a whole bunch of dogs, cats, horses, ponies, lizards, fish, and one single black sheep. Dan has been editing in the documentary and news genres for over 15 years. He is passionate about film and television and would love to make the move into narrative film and TV, while still retaining the option to edit fascinating documentary projects. (Hire him, really you won't regret it.) He aspires to have a career like Michael Kahn or Sally Menke.
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