Tips on Editing Short Films
The short film holds a unique position in the movie-making business. For many the short film form is the best way to demonstrate their filmmaking abilities, or at least practice them, and showcase them for free online.
For a select few it’s the way to get noticed by ‘the industry’ and move on to bigger and better things.
For an even rarer tribe, it’s also the way in which they can get their feature film financed off the back of the short. Which is what Damien Chazelle did for his first feature Whiplash, which went on to win 3 Oscars (Editing, Sound Mixing and Supporting Actor) and be nominated for Best Picture and Best Screenplay. You can read more about the editing of Whiplash here.
Shorts should never be thought of as an abbreviated version of their feature counterparts, but rather as supplementary material to them.
You want to be able to approach collaborators with your feature script and a short film that gives a glimpse into the style, character, and tone of the project.
Filmmaker Noam Kroll shared these helpful thoughts on how best to go about adapting your feature length screenplay into a fundraising short film which encapsulates what you’re trying to achieve.
In this post I’m sharing an interview I conducted with EditStock.com founder and short film aficionado, Misha Tennenbaum.
Misha had a great deal of wisdom and insight to share on creating short films and entering them into competitions, having judged a lot of them himself and reviewed hundreds of shorts on EditStock.
EditStock let’s you practice your editing skills by downloading the raw footage for commercials, short films, documentaries and music videos to edit in your own way, and then offers professional feedback on your cut.
You can save 15% off EditStock products with the promo code ‘Jonny’. Find out more details here.
Misha recently gave a really interesting presentation at LACPUG which was packed with his own ideas on the concepts on film editing and how it’s changing today. It’s well worth a watch.
Any further thoughts off the back of your presentation at LACPUG?
This is how editing will be done in the future: As you ingest your footage your NLE will automatically tag your b-roll with keywords including facial recognition, location, and content.
Your interviews will be automatically transcribed. Editors will open and edit their transcriptions like a word document.
The editor will hit the “edit” button and the NLE will automatically arrange the string out based on your “paper” edit. The NLE will cover that string out automatically with b-roll based on the tags it added on ingest. The editor will essentially start working from a rough cut.
Editing is the next literacy. You heard it here first.
What have you noticed in running EditStock about the industry and the short submissions/student editing?
While scenes don’t have an exact “right” and “wrong” way of being edited, they certainly do have many “righter” and “wronger” ways.
Editing is similar to watching rock climbers go up a mountain route. They will all struggle on the same parts, and there are a few accurate ways to solve those parts.
In all the projects I watch many students get tripped up in the same spots.
LaCie Short Film Competition
One of the reason’s I got in touch with Misha was to ask him for some advice on judging short film competitions, as I’m about to judge one myself!
I’m fortunate enough to be on the judging panel for LaCie’s new short film competition, PushPlay, which has a grand prize of a film production and post production suite worth over £10,000/$12,000.
That prize includes the following goodies, along with 2 day mentoring session with Oscar winning cinematographer, Michael Paleodimos. Michael shot the short film, Stutterer, which you can see the trailer for, above.
- Blackmagic Video Assist 7″
- Zoom H6 Portable Audio Recorder with Interchangeable Capsules
- LaCie 6big 24TB
- LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt3 SSD 1TB
- DJI Phantom 4 Pro
- MacBook Pro 15 inch TouchBar Quad i7 2.6GHz 16GB 256GB Pro 450 Silver
- Blackmagic 4k Production Camera
- DaVinci Resolve Studio
All you have to do is enter your short film (no longer than 20 minutes) before the 1st of May 2017. The judges will then curate a short list of the best 20 films, which will then be put to a public vote.
Find out more and enter your short film at pushplay.lacie.com.
If you’re a resident of the US I’m afraid you’re not eligible to enter
Premium Beat $5000 Prize Giveaway
So it turns out the PushPlay competition isn’t open to US residents, but PremiumBeat.com are giving away $5,000 worth of prizes including a Panasonic Lumix GH5 and some sweet looking Rokinon Cine-style lenses.
This competition is open to participants ‘worldwide’ and is much easier to take part in, as all you have to do is pop your email in the box before April 24th 2017 and you’re in it to win it!
Tips on Editing Short Films
What are you tips on creating short films?
The short answer to your question is:
Good Movies Have:
- A beginning, middle, and end (this is my #1 factor).
- Camera angles and moves more interesting then just being on a tripod
- Interesting costumes, locations, VFX, sound design, and so on
Bad Movies Have:
- Lots of narration
- Cliche story lines
- Poor production value, like two people in an apartment or house which clearly belongs to the crew.
Do short films require a specific approach to editing?
Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency.
When editing a short film constantly remind yourself that you’ve only got between 5 and 10 minutes before your movie needs to be over. If the scene, shot, moment, isn’t great, get it OUT.
Another form of efficiency is the story arc. Make sure that every story line pays off, meaning if you suggest something it needs to come back again sometime during the film in a changed way.
Should there be a twist at the end, to make the film live on past it’s duration?
I think what you are really asking is “should I leave the viewer with something memorable.” The answer is absolutely yes, but that’s not easy to do.
The most impactful moments on your audience’s memory will be the first and last shots. Make sure those are some of the best shots in your project. A twist is certainly not required.
What are your Do’s and Dont’s for short films?
When shooting a short film start with these basic rules:
- Do not shoot anything in your apartment.
- Do look for more interesting locations.
- Do not use voice over.
- Do Tell your exposition with creative shots.
- Do not keep the camera static.
- Make sure the camera moves. In today’s world of cheap camera gear there is no reason to shoot everything on a tripod.
- Be more creative with your storytelling.
Tips for Short film Competitions
The first thing a filmmaker should ask themselves before entering a short film competition is, “how do I define success?” Here are some common goals filmmakers have for joining a competition along with my best advice.
Goal 1: Use the festival deadline to push you to complete a film.
Yes, festivals are well worth it. By the way, I think this is a terrific reason to even enter a festival. This is honest, personal,
and goal oriented. Even if you don’t get in you’ll have succeeded, and learned.
Goal 2: Sell your short film and make money.
No. This is a bad reason to go to a festival. With short films, 99.99% of them will earn no money, even those that win the festival. Some companies will buy shorts for a paltry sum of $20-50 per minute of finished content and they often request exclusive contracts for years. Hardly a return on investment.
The best way to earn your money back is to sell it on EditStock 🙂 – I’m serious about that.
Goal 3: Critical acclaim.
Yes. Festivals are basically your only route for critic review. Judges, and journalists flock to film festivals. If your film is in it, you will get some press.
Goal 4: Get an agent, or job out of it.
Probably no, but it is possible.
Film festivals certainly will raise the profile of a filmmaker. While your chances of gaining an agent through a festival are basically none at a small festival, they are significant better (though still not likely) at a major festival.
Major festivals like Sundance have become a sort of draft pool of talent for agencies. If you do get into a big festival and don’t get an agent or job out of it immediately don’t panic. Getting into the festival will help you for a few years.
This is only worth doing if you are also pursuing other avenues for agents and jobs including cold calls, handing out resumes, and asking friends.
How do you make sure your film stands out?
You need to have at least one shot or moment which makes the whole theatre say WOW or EW, or HAHAHA!
I once watched a short where a man is strapped to a chair while another man’s butt is lowered onto his face… for the whole 3 minute film. That was it. One gag.
It was in the festival and getting laughs.
Is there an art to editing a strong short film as a calling card to a feature (e.g Whiplash)?
This is like asking where the holy grail is buried. I have no idea. Sorry.
What have you noticed in judging short film competitions?
The most common mistake people make is not watching their cuts down before sending them in. I can’t tell you how many projects I’ve seen where lines go out of sync, there is a black hole where a VFX shot should be, or the aspect ratio is wrong in the export.
You’ve got to get the ‘gimme points’ that the judges are giving out.
Follow directions, do quality technical work (white balance and focus) and you’re already ahead of half the pack.
Are short films getting better as the tools/skills become more accessible?
Short films are getting way better. Most of the improvement I’ve noticed is in visual effects. Tools from companies like Video CoPilot raise the bar in terms of what the average filmmaker is capable of, and expected to make.
Also, there is no excuse at this point to not have quality score from a stock music company like PremiumBeat.com, and title graphics from any number of templates available for sale (check out Rocketstock.com). This is not cheating. Use these resources.
*Side note: EditStock footage cannot be submitted to festivals or be used in a movie which is being submitted to a festival. We are not a traditional stock footage company.