The Modern Editor Myth

I have a problem with what people think is the Modern Editor. The one I speak of is the self taught, do it yourself, do it all, one stop shop who has not learned through others while ignoring pre established workflow patterns. I’ve been teaching a once a week night class on Post Production at a local University and have only come to believe in this idea even more so than before. After reading Scott Simmon’s tweet/article about Bewaring of (Some) YouTube FCP Tutorial Videos I was even more convinced that the “modern editor” not only existed, but was growing in the ranks.

What you should know about my past is that I am primarily self taught, so I don’t think that in and of itself is the issue.  It’s thinking that being self taught is enough. I think it would be better to hand out some pointers rather than to say what I think is wrong.

– Find a mentor, be an assistant editor.

Some of the scenes I am most proud of editing have been because of what I have directly learned in an editing class, read from a book/blog or learned by sitting on a chair behind the shoulder of an editor who has much more experience than me. The latter was the place I learned that all I listened to in those old editing theory classes was actually in use in the edit bay.

I think the “modern editors” are bored with the task of watching footage, marking clips, syncing and creating selects. Sometimes they jump right to making the cool lower thirds for the edit rather than spending their enthusiasm for the edit on watching the footage they have. If you don’t do this part of the job, you shouldn’t consider yourself an editor. Not all of us like all of these steps, but we know that they make the edit greater in the end.  I see a lot of new people cutting their teeth on edits and figuring they will get the hang of it eventually, after enough practice, but don’t ever want to learn from the bottom up. They don’t want to learn how to make a multiclip, but expect PluralEyes to do it all for them. They don’t want to watch all of their footage, they just want to use the circled takes. Being an assistant editor has its perks and it creates value in an editor looking for a job.

-Follow your job description

Think of an edit like a group of materials, legos if you will (since that seems to be something just about everyone has experience with).  Think of a bucket of Legos being deleivered to you. You pull out of a few pieces after shuffling through the bucket, but you don’t take the time necessary to know what each piece could bring to the final product. That’s the edit. Look at all your pieces, read the notes you get and spend your time being excited and eager to get to know the footage. How could you make the best creation possible without knowing what pieces you have to work with?

Your cut may take more time on the front end, but it will take a lot less time on the back end. And that’s usually when the stakes are high and the pressure is on.

All in all, take your mind off figuring it out “in post” and treat yourself like an athlete. Practice and play every position to make the team. There are only a few Michael Jordan’s and Wayne Gretzky’s in the industry and even they respect the workflow that has been laid out before them.