A very interesting thing happens when you’re coaching, or consulting, as opposed to doing the work yourself.
If you’re editing a project, and a thought occurs to you, you can simply say “what do you think of this?”, then dazzle the client with your blurry-fast key strokes. Voila: the suggestion played back, to be rejected or accepted.
But if, on the other hand, you’re not the one executing the moves, the challenge becomes how to articulate your ideas in a clear and concise manner. Sometimes it’s easy, but the deeper you get into the emotional content of the work, the more that articulation becomes difficult. I recently worked with a filmmaker and her editor, mainly on restructuring some elements of her film. Moving scenes around is relatively simple, but then what? How do you marry the scenes together? It’s delicate, and far more complex that simple transitions.
The most comprehensible metaphor I’ve found is “you’ve got the bricks all laid out, now you need to mix the mortar,” the mortar being its own art. Does the audience need to breathe a little after the previous scene? Do we need to establish the new scene with an exterior shot, or is that redundant? Is there some key you can insert between the two that calls back to something, or foreshadows something else? Is what’s called for a dizzy montage? The mortar is more than just glue or tape, it’s an intrinsic part of the whole, and can make or break a project. It often comes down to the frame, and ending or starting on the right one, that can tell people what to feel, or let them come to their own conclusions. In the narrative structure of a piece, the mortar helps set the pace and timing, as well as the language of the film.
I’ve been more grateful than I can express at the opportunities I’ve had to work on projects and events at the level of consultant, or coach, or whatever you want to call it. I think it’s made me a better editor, and it’s helped my clients better understand what I see when I look at their projects, whether I’m coming in late or early. Even if it does sometimes make me sound like a new age dude.