Masterclass.com Courses For Film Editors
- Why a broader knowledge of filmmaking will add depth to your film editing
- The Best Masterclass.com courses for Film Editors
- Aaron Sorkin Screenwriting Q&A
Film editing is one of the final parts of the filmmaking process and to be successful relies upon the professionalism, efforts and creative decision making of those who have been involved in pre-production and production. An editor doesn’t exist in a vacuum, even though often many might prefer if they did!
We can only work with what we’re given, and we have to work what we have into a compelling, engaging and imaginative viewing experience. Developing a wider understanding, therefore of the perspective and craft of other departments in the filmmaking process will add depth and skill to the working editor.
Arrival editor Joe Walker talks quite a bit about his preference for cutting without temp tracks in order to give the composer the space and ‘tabla rasa’ to contribute their best work. He also has a background in music and sound design.
If you better understand how composing soundtracks for film works, you’ll be better able to communicate and collaborate with your composer, and edit better as a result.
Masterclass.com provides a very rare opportunity to learn from some of the true masters of the craft for only $90 a pop.
Each masterclass is a combination of video lessons, homework exercises, downloadable course books and interactive community forums. Your one-off fee gives you lifetime access to your chosen course.
Having examined the Masterclass.com site in detail, here is my shortlist of courses that editors would benefit from taking:
- Aaron Sorkin Masterclass on Screenwriting
- Hans Zimmer Masterclass on Composing for Film
- Werner Herzog Masterclass on Filmmaking
- Shonda Rhimes Masterclass on Writing for Television
- Steve Martin Masterclass on Comedy
- Kevin Spacey Masterclass on Acting
My rationale for this selection is anything that will help me grow in my understanding of the whole craft of filmmaking, will improve my abilities as an editor.
Classes on acting will help me understand performance and character, classes on music will help me understand pacing and rhythm and actually work with composed music. Werner Herzog’s class covers the full gamut of filmmaking topics, with specific chapter on editing too.
The Shonda Rhimes class on writing for television looks interesting to me as an editor, for much the same reasons as the Aaron Sorkin class proved helpful. Editing is writing with rushes and the final rewrite
So you need to know how story structure, character, plot lines, episode formats and the like function for television at a storytelling level, if you’re going to craft that in post.
Aaron Sorkin Screenwriting Masterclass Q+A
I previously reviewed the excellent Aaron Sorkin Masterclass on screenwriting here, so jump to that if you want a little bit more detail. It’s a brilliant course for editors because it teaches you about the fundamentals of drama and story structure.
We’re going to talk about Intention and Obstacle. Which is the most important thing in drama, without that you’re screwed blue. Without strong clear intention and a formidable obstacle you don’t have drama. – Aaron Sorkin
In that review I pulled out 5 things (of many) that I took away from the course, such as the importance of failure, attention to detail and how to construct drama in any situation.
3. Failure is par for the course.
The honesty, candour and straight talk that Aaron delivers feels very much like what you get from Steven King’s On Writing.
Finding an idea, discovering the conflict around a strong, clear intention and a formidable obstacle is hard. Sorkin likes to use sports metaphors and his baseball analogy is that you have to look for ‘your’ pitch – the ideas you know you can at least swing at, and hopefully hit – and let the rest pass you by.
He also points out that if you can be successful two out of every three times you step up to the plate, you’re going to the hall of fame, much like with the movies.
As an editor and a creative individual it’s extremely heartening to hear someone as successful as Sorkin be frank about the difficulties involved in creating something really great. Sometimes you don’t. And that’s OK.
Recently Aaron did his first ‘office hours’ Q+A session, where students could call in and ask questions during a live stream. A lot of excited and grateful students got to talk to a master of the screenwriting craft, and he also dispensed some really useful wisdom for creatives of all kinds.
Here are three things I took away from his Q+A, which you can listen to here, if you’ve purchased the course previously.
One of the most surprising things that happened was when a caller mentioned that he had entered script writing competitions in order to try to get past the ‘no unsolicited screenplays’ barrier that many agents put in place.
Having racked up 53 wins, including 8 first places, he was still not having any luck. Aaron offered to get his details and take a look into it himself. Lucky for some!
Dealing with creative block
The question was essentially do you agree with the idea of re-typing a favourite screenplay, from another writer, in order to overcome writer’s block. Aaron tackled the question more broadly with regards to what to do when you’re stuck.
Being stuck is what I mostly am. When I’m not stuck, that’s sort of a special holiday… most of my time is taken up with pacing the room, climbing the walls or staring at a blank screen and a blinking cursor.
One of Aaron’s recommendations for getting ‘unstuck’ is to sit and watch a movie with the screenplay open on his lap while he does so. This allows him to ‘sort of get in the back door of what I’m doing that way’, but his biggest piece of advice was just to give yourself time and to remember that even though it doesn’t feel like it, you will get unstuck.
Just as your falling asleep, right when your brain relaxes itself to fall asleep, you’re going to get an idea in there… a little idea… and just make sure you write it down before you fall asleep, because as much as you think there’s no way you’re going to forget it in the morning, you’re going to forget it in the morning.
So a practical take away is to keep a a pad and pen by your bed at all times!
When to know you’re finished
In any creative endeavour it’s always difficult to know when you’re finished. Could you add more? Should you change a detail? Are you just changing things for the sake of it, or are you actually improving it?
Aaron’s answer started with:
It’s said that a script is never finished, it’s just abandoned. I’ve never finished a script – an episode of television or a movie, I’ve never finished it.
It’s just been taken away from me because we have to shoot it now. We don’t have a choice. I did as well as I could with the time given. And that can be a good thing…
Aaron went on to say that his first play was A Few Good Men and he’s not stopped re-writing it – even to this day, as it’s gone through different iterations, performances and formats.
I guess the take-away is that you need other collaborators, deadlines and external constraints that impose themselves upon the creative process. Otherwise you might just get stuck in your head and go round in circles ad nauseam.
Disagreeing with notes
What do you do when you disagree with a ‘note’ from a producer, executive, director or other collaborator? They want it to be blue, you believe it should be red.
Press on them a little. I disagree, here’s why. Tell me why I’m wrong. Make them make their case. And if they don’t and you still believe in what you’re doing, do what you’re doing…
In the rest of the answer Aaron tells an anecdote about how no one wanted Spielberg to make Schindler’s List, but he was allowed to make it in exchange for Jurassic Park.
Aaron’s point being that sometimes you’re right, even when everyone else thinks you’re wrong and you just have to stick to your guns. (As long as you’re Spielberg!)
But the first part of the answer on asking for further clarification will force them to really consider their critique and potentially reveal the true problem behind the note.
For more info on the Aaron Sorkin Masterclass check out my detailed review here.
Composer Han Zimmer Masterclass
I like listening to film soundtracks while I work, and more often than not it ends up being something Hans Zimmer has worked on.
In Hans Zimmer’s Composing Masterclass, across 30+ video lessons, he breaks down the process of creating some of the most memorable scores in modern cinema. In the trailer his focus on story was what caught my attention specifically:
I can tell you everything you need to know in one word. Story.
Ideas are not limited by budget the creative processes takes place in your head.
Personally I’m interested in this course from a musical point of view, but also a filmmaking stand point. So much of film editing is about pace, rhythm and a understanding of musicality, even if it’s never expressed in music per se.
Of all the courses on Masterclass.com Hans Zimmer’s and Steve Martin’s on comedy (see below) are the ones I’m most looking forward to reviewing.
I’ve pre-enrolled to Han’s class and I’m now about 25/31 lessons through his course. So far I’ve already made over 1,400 words of notes!
Han’s is an incredibly engaging, entertaining and inspiring teacher and every lesson has given me an idea to chew on in relation to film editing. I’ll be posting an in-depth review of the entire course soon.
The course covers topics such as collaborating with directors, scoring to picture and under dialogue, story and music, character development and music. There are also case studies on The Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon and Sherlock Holmes.
The final part of the course covers Han’s personal journey and some thoughts on his life as a composer.
Han’s is in fact doing his first live Office Hours Q&A today (March 15th) exclusively for pre-enrolled students so it shows it’s worth pre-enrolling to get access to extra goodies!
For more insight on Hans, here he is working with Christopher Nolan on the Interstellar soundtrack. For more of the same, check out my making of Interstellar post too!
Steve Martin’s Comedy Masterclass
Comedy is timing.
Editing is timing.
The difference between making a joke really land for a belly laugh, or totally flop for a roll of the eyes, can be a matter of a few frames.
The same is true of dramatic editing, or even documentary editing. Hold on someone a beat longer than you normally would and you often start to question the truthfulness of their statement.
Steve Martin’s Masterclass on Comedy, looks like a brilliant course for editors because it will help you understand timing, the power of body language for silent communication and how to tell a story in a single punch line.
Steve’s Masterclass is coming ‘Spring 2017’, with about 60 days at the time of writing left on the countdown timer, so there aren’t more details on the specific contents of the course available just yet.
But it will follow the Masterclass format of video lessons, downloadable workbook and homework assignments, select samples of which will be critiqued by Steve himself.
But while you wait here is a great episode of Every Frame a Painting on how to do visual comedy.