Editing 101: 5 Rules (6-10)
JJ Lask
Issue: July 1, 2018

Editing 101: 5 Rules (6-10)

JJ Lask is a creative editor with PS260 (www.ps260.com), which has studios in both New York City and Venice, CA. His list of credits includes work for M&Ms, NY Lottery, Yahoo, American Greetings, and UPS to name just a few. Each month throughout 2018, Lask will deliver ‘5 Rules’ that editors might consider for both practical purposes and inspiration. Here is his latest installment. (For June’s Rules 1-5, Click Here)

Rule 6 - Alpha & Omega 

Alpha is the first letter and numeral in the Ancient Greek system, Omega is the last. The contrast is polemic by nature. In editing, the beginning and end are the most critical sections of your piece. If these two components don’t work, your piece will suffer. These two sections should get a thousand times more of your editing attention and scrutiny than any other part.   

One important recommendation for the Alpha: Make it digestible. Don’t lose your audience before you even get started. Even if your opening is complex, don’t go into the next section with your audience still in section one. Make sure they are along for the ride at all times.

One important recommendation for the Omega: Make it indigestible. Have them sick and laboring over your ending. Leaving them in slight confusion is okay. Never fully wrap it in a perfect bow - that’s boring. Always leave them wanting more.

Rule 7 - Emotional Reality

Film and video cannot and should not be intelligently understood. A film is a product of cutting incongruent clips together to produce an emotional reality. The emotional reality is stronger and longer lasting than intellectual reality. One edit can produce an emotion to inspire an audience to change lives.  

So as the editor, when going into battle with a studio, advertising agency or brand, stand up for the emotional reality, which they often lack the ability to spot and experience. (See the next rule to help in these situations.)

Rule 8 - Rare Eloquence

It is very important to be able to explain your point of view and stand up for your work. Editors are confronted by resistance at every frame by supervisors in higher positions. Since you’re an editor, (see Rule 2) you’re probably not the most verbally gifted person in the world. You must rehearse your stance and viewpoint before you present your work. Try to incorporate the following words (for some reason they work very well): arbitrary, candor, didactic, eclectic, empirical, laconic, maudlin and quandary.

All that said, remember, in the end, your work will have to stand up on its own merit.  

Rule 9  - It’s Not Singing To Me

Sometimes your work doesn’t sing. Sometimes it doesn’t even talk. You’ve put in the hours and the additional hours. No fault of yours, but it’s not good. It feels boring, flat and unimaginative. Maybe it’s the script or the story - you’ve already cut out the boring parts. Maybe it’s the acting - you’ve already cut around the bad acting. Maybe it’s the cinematography - you’ve already cut around the bad camera moves. Well, it’s time to add the letterbox. Letterbox automatically adds imagination, character and sophistication.  

Now what if you already have letterbox on your piece? And it’s still not talking to you? Well, add a little letterbox to your letterbox.  

Rule 10 - The Benefits Of Taking Notes

I bet no one else is.
It makes you look like you care.
It helps you remember stuff.
It helps you to be disciplined.  
It frees your mind.