Finish a first cut as fast as possible. The first cut is just a jumping off point for the rest of the edit. It won’t be right, so all that time spent on perfecting each little edit will be wasted when you realize that an entire section of the film is falling flat and needs a major overhaul.
Know when to step away from the computer.
Watch the whole movie!! Even after the first rough cut, it’s very dangerous to get too attached to any scene edit without watching the movie from beginning to end. You can learn more in the two hours it takes to watch the film without interruption than you do spending a whole week polishing edits or rearranging and discussing colored 3×5 cards.
Screen with others. It’s extremely important to screen the movie with other people in the room. There’s an interesting phenomenon where, when you watch your edit with someone else, you actually see it differently. It’s a strange and very productive effect. Something about knowing there is a real audience next to you alters your own read and you become much more objective about what isn’t working.
Really bad rough cuts are GOOD! There’s (almost) nothing more embarrassing than sitting through a rough cut screening that isn’t going well. But there’s nothing more constructive, and cathartic, than feeling okay the next morning to tear up the timeline and rethink everything. Sometimes having a room full of people tell you it’s not working is what you need to fix it.
Screen to friends often, but be mindful of which friends. You should compartmentalize your friends and family into three groups:
a. Those who say it’s great no matter what (parents are perfect for this).
b. Those who usually state the obvious about what’s not working, but are generally nice about it.
c. Those who are brutally honest and will not hesitate to point out all the flaws that you either didn’t notice or were hoping no one would.
You’ll know when you need which group.