A Film Maker’s Guide to Completion

this is a continuing and on going Guide and is subject to additions as I think of them.

This is a guide to help up and coming filmmakers who need a little information about the ins and outs of making a movie on a small, low, or no budget.


Start at the end to know where to start

Most people think the important thing when making a movie is having a Camera — and that may have some validity;  Some think you have to have a good story before you start — and yes a good story is a key element; There are those that feel the acting is most important when making a movie — and again acting is also a relevant part in making a movie — good or bad — but none of those compare in importance to knowing how you are going to finish the movie, such as, the media format, the editing system, music, audio and video effects, the output format, and most of all THE EDITOR.

You can have the best camera, box office smash script, and professional actors but without knowing how you are going to finish it and without an editor, a competent editor, you might as well stop before you get started.

An editor — a good one not to mention a great one — is the most important element in the film making process — yes this is coming from an editor and although it may sound biased it is a fact.  And after working on many, many projects and seeing other projects that don’t have a experienced editor on them, the projects that have longevity, look good, or even have a chance at getting finished have an editor that knows what they are doing.


A skilled and experienced editor is the last person that tells the story, the person that puts all the pieces together in a cohesive manner — some may think the Director dictates the story, the edits, and the cuts which may be true, but the editor actually makes them happen — and the editor is the one that has the knowledge of how to export it in the format that was decided upon in the beginning which dictated how the movie was to be recorded in the first place — THE EDITOR IS KEY!

The editor is the one that spends hours, and I don’t mean 2 or 6 I mean 10 – 18 plus in a day, going back and forth on one edit to decide if it is one frame to the left or one frame to the right that will make the difference in the scene — these are the small things that no one will notice or see unless is was done incorrectly — and we as editors know this, but it is our job, our love of story telling, and our need to do things right that sets us above everyone else in the film making world — we have the time to fine tune and try variations.

The editor sets the pacing of the movie and a scene and can do so no matter what the pacing was on set.  The editor can also make an actor look good or bad depending on the takes used — and it is not always about taking the best performance on each camera set up on each actor in each scene it’s about what take works well with the preceding clip and the previous and the two before and after — these are the duties, the responsibilities, and the reverence that us editors revel in.

There are so many things that an editor does to make a movie even get finished let alone be something people want to watch over and over again, it is truly a joke when someone who just bought or has played with a movie editing program for a short time sits in front of it to cut a movie, not a home movie, not some slide show, and not some youtube video of his friend crashing on his bike, but a real movie they want to project onto the big screen.  A real editor edits something everyday, learns something, challenges them self to get better, to be more creative, and to become more useful to a film project than one else or any other equipment.

Without a real editor skilled and experienced editor you’re just pretending your making a movie.