Things I’ve Learned As A Moviemaker

Edit while you’re still shooting. On every flick since Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, I’ve been editing while still in the midst of production. I’m not talking about some hired editor piecing together an assembly while I’m on set, either—I mean that, whenever I’m not shooting, I’m in the edit room with my footage. For this reason, we keep our editing bay as close to the set as possible. While the crew is taking 15 minutes to an hour to set-up the next shot, I’m behind the Avid, putting the flick together.

Jason Mews and Kevin Smith
Jason Mews and Kevin Smith reprise their roles as Jay and Silent Bob in Clerks II.

Chop while rolling. It’s all upside when you’re editing while you’re shooting, as you’ll know right away if there are any shots missing. More than twice over the course of Clerks II, I was able to grab cutaways or re-shoot coverage a mere 48 hours after wrapping on a particular scene, thanks to chopping while rolling. Two days after wrap, I had a fine cut of the flick because I’d spent the entire shoot editing whenever I wasn’t on set (during production I average three hours of sleep a night). I can’t stress this enough: Cut while you shoot!

Show your edited footage as often as possible. Another benefit to cutting while you’re still in production is that it affords you the opportunity to share the scenes with the cast. Until they see cut scenes, the film is solely theoretical to them. Give the actors actual scenes to watch and suddenly they can see the film taking shape, too. If you’re lucky, the cast will get pumped seeing how well all their stuff is turning out and you’ll enjoy the trickle-down benefits: A freshly-inspired troop of performers who’ll come in every day and give you even better performances.

Include the cast (and crew) in on the editing process, too. I’m not saying they should all ride shotgun at the Avid, but once you’ve got scenes cut, roll ’em for the cast and crew. In some cases, they might provide insight you hadn’t thought of yourself. At the very least, showing the cast and crew cut scenes as soon as possible will convey how collaborative you can be and foster good will amongst the people who are already eager to help you realize your vision.

If you’re shooting a talky picture, spare no expense on the sound recorder. Without special effects or stars, your dialogue is the selling point of your flick. Therefore, it behooves you to hire the best sound recordist/mixer you can afford. Same goes for your boom guy/girl: Don’t cheap out.

Never fish off the director’s pier. Don’t fuck the help. Better to tug one out in your trailer than create an environment of weirdness by dipping your pen, or having a pen dipped, in company ink. After the flick has wrapped, hold a circle jerk/daisy-chain/gang-bang with the entire crew if you like, but while you’re in production, keep it all business.

Don’t make Jersey Girl. Trust me on this one.

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