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Editing | How To's

What Makes a Good Editor?

1 Mar , 1999  

Written by Lillian Baulding & Jessica Stephan | Posted by:

Hear the secret to editing from local producers such as Errol Moris, the filmmaker of 'A Midwife's Tale' and others.

If you are interested in becoming a professional editor, here are some qualities a few independent filmmakers/editors feel a good one should have.

Errol Morris, Filmmaker, Fourth Floor Productions

"A good editor has to have nerves of steel, and a willingness to reject reality for AVR-3E."

Laurie Kahn-Leavitt —Filmmaker, "A Mid-Wife’s Tale"

"I think people who are good editors are very sensitive to the material they’ve got. There are editors who edit the same way no matter what. Valuable editors are the ones who really respond differently each time. You want an editor to balance your strengths. A producer who may not have a strong sense of structure may want to hire an editor who does. If the producer is strong on structure, then [he/she] may want to get someone who is strong visually."

Alice Stone — Director/Editor, Directing her first feature called, "Firewater" for Homegrown Pictures.

"The ability to watch the same footage a hundred times and still be able to cut as if you’re seeing the footage for the first time with fresh eyes."

John Jungerman, Filmmaker/Executive Producer "The Mississippi: A River of Song"

"A good editor is unflappable. When things get overwhelming you are able to stay focused and keep your head about you. You also have to have good social skills to put up with your director and producer. The job carries a lot of interpersonal stress."

Sam Pollard Filmmaker/Editor, Series Producer, "I’ll Make Me A World," Blackside Inc.

"Being able to listen and observe constantly, and being able to look at the footage to see exactly what the director is really trying to say."

Juan Mandelbaum, Filmmaker, Owner, GeoVision

"A good editor has to have a good sense of storytelling and has to help a producer with that. It’s a hard thing to learn. There used to be the position of assistant editor where one could look over the shoulder of an experienced editor and learn from them. That doesn’t exist anymore. The sense that if you spend enough time practicing on the Avid will make you a good editor just doesn’t happen. It’s like thinking that practicing word processing will make you a good writer."

Marlene Booth, Editor/Filmmaker, "Yidl in the Middle"

"A good editor is someone who knows the material and hears the story, someone who senses the material she has at her fingertips, senses what’s there and what not there, and works to extract the essence."