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Today in the Editing Room

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Today in my editing class, we talked about making hard choices. There are always going to be decisions made in the editing room that we might not like but that would be better for our film or show in the long run. My professor talked to us about how there would be times in our career where we were completely in love with a scene, for whatever reason, and would have to trim it down or completely cut it. Whole characters – even impeccably performed by great actors – might need to be eliminated.

He was speaking from experience, of course. He told us a story about how he finally had a chance to make a film adaption of a book he had loved. When every scene was shot and the filming wrapped, the movie was too long by at least a half hour. He had to cut a scene that was one of his absolute favorites in the book. While it was a great scene and the actors did their jobs well, it didn’t drive the plot forward well enough and letting it go freed up a lot of the time he needed. We talked a little about how hard it is to translate something cerebral like a book (meaning most of the action plays out in your mind) to something as visual as a performance. Things have to adapt and change in order to go from one to the other, and there’s an endless amount of ways for you to accomplish the task.

Our professor also talked about how it isn’t all bad, and how there are workarounds. Directors create special “Director’s Cut” versions to be released for home viewing, or even add everything to a deleted scenes section on the disk or streaming service. There are ways to have everything we want, he said, even if it is after the theatrical release.

It really got me thinking. I am not looking forward to making the kinds of decisions he is talking about. I know that in the grand scheme of things, this is the job. There will always be choices like that. There will always be good scenes that don’t make it into the final cut for whatever reason. It sucks and it isn’t fair but it is reality and I will have to come to terms with that if I want to be a real director someday. While I know that there is a “consolation prize” so to speak as far as director’s cuts or deleted scenes go, it is still hard for me to accept right now. I can’t imagine being so attached to something and then having to get rid of it. The idea that all of our hard work, and all that emotion, would end up on the cutting room floor and potentially wouldn’t be seen by anyone is a little heartbreaking.

I don’t know if I need a thicker skin, if I need to be better at managing time and pacing (so I run into this issue less) or if I need to be less emotionally involved in what I do, but I will have to find a way – or combination of ways – that works for me so that I, and any project I am working on, survive the editing room!