1. When you’re in the editing room at want to scream at the DP, sound guy, boom operator, AD, script supervisor… etc., try to have sympathy for them. People on set aren’t making mistakes expressly for the purpose of making your life difficult. It’s hard to know what they were going through that day, but it’s more than likely that they were under intense pressure and time constraints—all while having been sleep-deprived, hungry and cold. This leads to piece of advice #2.
2. Complaining about what you have to work with is a waste of time; look for solutions. They are there.
3. A film can often be shorter and still work. It’s hard to remember this when you’ve fine-tuned every moment and it seems like taking anything out will collapse your movie like a house of cards, but if you can find a way to change your perspective, you’ll often be surprised at how taking out those “necessary” moments improves and streamlines the film. In other words, question everything, and stay open to the possibility of losing scenes you considered essential.
4. The first time you screen your dailies or raw footage, try to be as focused as possible. Minimize any distractions—there’s only one first time. Throughout the process, regardless of how many times you watch your film, you’ll often want to refer back to your first impressions. The clearer and more uncluttered your memory, the easier it is to do that.
5. No matter what you’re working on, do a good job. It’s your job as an editor to take the footage up a notch, whether it’s making great material into something even more amazing or turning awful dailies into a watchable film. The most heroic editors are those toiling away at under-funded films and turning piles of mediocre footage into moderately entertaining films. Besides, you never know where your next job is coming from, and no one’s ever going to say “Oh, the editor did a bad job on this project because the footage was so terrible and he was paid so little—let’s definitely pay him a lot of money on our next big-budget film with lots of movie stars.” If you do a bad job, even if it’s on a mediocre film, people are just going to think you don’t know how to do a good one.