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What Editors Can Learn From Cinematographers

Jonny Elwyn

Pick up some great wisdom for your video editing career from these 88 professional cinematographers.

Image credit: The Black and Blue

The Black and Blue is a fantastic website for aspiring cinematographers and working camera assistants. It’s chock full of fantastic filmmaking advice and the best free pocket camera guides on the web.

In a recent article camera assistant Evan Luzi compiled this epic list of the best professional advice these 88 professional cinematographers ever received. The entire article is well worth a read, but I thought it would be useful to pull out a few choice nuggets of wisdom that are really applicable to everyone working in film….even video editors.

Be a Diplomat

Photo credit: Flickr

As you read through the extensive list of quotes in the article, what really stands out to me is how important all of your ‘soft-skills’ are to building a successful career. You might be the most technically accomplished creative there is, but if you’re horrible to be around, then you really will struggle to find work.

This thought from Bill Bennet ASC is a brilliant example of how to apply those diplomatic skills practically. It is a true as anywhere that diplomacy matters in the edit suite.

“Never pass up the opportunity to keep your mouth shut!’ What they don’t tell you in cinematography training is that your job is 50 percent cinematography and 50 percent diplomacy. I’ve learned the hard way that when things go south, as they sometimes do, it’s best to pause and reflect on what’s happening and why before opening your mouth and blurting out what first comes to mind. No one remembers what you didn’t say, but they will certainly remember something you said in haste.” – Bill Bennett, ASC

For a little snippet of Bill Bennett in action check out this short extract from a masterclass he gave on lighting a car, with what he calls ‘liquid light’.

Listen to Your Gut

Advice for filmmakersImage credit: Wikimedia

“The film business is like a prizefight: It’s not how many times you get knocked down that counts, it’s how many times you get up and go again.” – Sam Nicholson

As creative professionals there is one thing that makes you utterly unique in a very competitive industry and that is your gut instinct. But if you don’t make the most of these instincts, you’ll never be making the most of your most valuable asset.

Obviously finding out which parts of your instincts are worth listening to takes time, experience, failure and the courage to try again. In the edit suite try to cut on instinct rather than on the rules in your head. Go with what feels right rather than if the continuity is perfectly aligned or your cutting appropriately through different shot sizes.

“Have a clear vision, design and objective for every scene. Then, by lighting with your instincts along with your intention and setting your own level of excellence, you will find satisfaction.” – Rene Ohashi, ASC, CSC

Small Things Make a Big Difference

Video Editing
Photo credit: williambrawley on Flickr

Lastly it is interesting to note how many small (but practical) things are the ‘best piece of professional advice’ some of these cinematographers have received – from things like being early, to getting enough sleep or eating a decent breakfast and wearing the right shoes.

In the edit suite I think some of the smallest things that can make the biggest difference are things like turning around to talk to your director, being willing to try an idea (even if you already did and it didn’t work the first time) or things as tiny as always offering to make a cup of tea for a client.

From my agent: ‘Be the happiest guy on set.’ He was right. – Frank B Byers

From George Folsey Sr.: ‘Whenever you go into production, eat a good breakfast and sit down whenever you can.’ Good advice. – Peter Deming, ASC

The advice I got the first day I worked in the film business: Always be five minutes early to work, never five minutes late. But more importantly, live on the edge when it comes to your photography — take risks. Put your ideas on film and fall down a few times; it will make you a great filmmaker. – Salvatore Totino