The Greatest Fallacy in Editing

by Paddy Bird on
July 2, 2020

Is it innate or is it learned behaviour? Is it a gift from the edit gods or can editing instinct really be developed by us? These questions have been circulating around the editing community for decades and so I thought it was a worthy subject to dive into for this week’s episode.

It has a personal resonance for me as when I started editing in the mid 90’s I was told that this was an artistic skill you either had or you didn’t. The dark arts of editing couldn’t be taught and the result was that I spent the first few years of my editing career in a state of complete creative anxiety, never thinking I’d be good enough. There were many moment that I even considered leaving a career in creative editing behind because this philosophy about editing was so prevalent.

While it sounded romantic that this art form was shrouded in mystery and only mastered by a small number of creative geniuses I gradually realised that this just wasn’t true. In this week’s episode I talk through the history of how the craft was traditionally taught, how it changed completely with the advent of digital editing, how we learn complex skills and my own personal journey to mastering this beautiful art form with the help of working on shows like Big Brother.

The Editor's Checklist

As I talk about in this week’s episode, this small list of content and creative based questions I ask myself at the start of any scene, sequence or project, became a reflex after asking myself them hundreds of times. Working out these preliminary creative directions sped up my cutting abilities by a massive amount and got me to the place where I could start finessing sequences incredibly fast, a key skill in high end editing.

Download the PDFs and try and get into the habit of filling it in over and over again before you start cutting your latest sequence no matter what the genre is. Pretty soon it’ll become a reflex and you won’t even need them anymore.

Print Version

Click here to download the print version

Digital Version

Click here to download the digital version

Resources Mentioned in the Episode

Deep Work by Cal Newport

This isn’t an affiliate link, I just love this book and it’s definitely worth buying.

Trailer: Hitchcock/Truffau

Brilliant documentary and essential viewing for any filmmaker.

Trailer: The Tailor of Panama

Hilarious espionage thriller where Pierce Brosnan talks about ’The rock of eye’.

This Week's Competition Question

This Week's Competition Question

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Tracks Featured in This Episode from Universal Production Music

0:02 - Dreamer

Track Title: The Snow is Dancing
Composer: Sam Joseph Delves
Publisher: Bruton Music Ltd
Album: Organic Panoramic
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48:40 - Connected

Track Title: Pointless Walking
Composer: David Stephen Goldsmith
Publisher: Nova Production Music Ltd
Album: Progressions
View Track


Essential Picture Cutting Theory

Saturday, February 20, 3PM GMT

The way we design the shots on our timeline is a huge indicator of our skill level. Elite level editors obey a vast range of visual grammar and pacing principles when crafting any sequence. But film schools, online courses and training manuals focus on the software and none of these essential creative principles.

This month's live webinar will teach you everything you need to know about pro level shot cutting. You’ll learn: Shot Flow, Visual Grammar, Pictorial arcs, Tone and pacing, and Stylisation.

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5 April - 16 April 2021

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