Ashely Judd
Ashley Judd stars in Joey Lauren Adams’ Come Early

Enjoy the process.

Film editing is a grueling process. There’s no glamour in spending months at a time shut up in a dark room with a director who’s spent years struggling to bring their story to the light of day. An aspiring editor has to be realistic about what the process entails: Does the minutiae of editing work actually inspire you? Are you content to rake through countless hours of footage and piece it together into a coherent story? For me, this meticulous, rigorous form of problem-solving is the reward in itself. I get tremendous satisfaction being in the editing room, looking at the same footage over and over—and seeing something different every time.

Create collaboratively.

As an editor, it’s critical for me to understand what my collaborators have envisioned for the film. The director, of course, is at the helm of the production. It is their creative vision that we are all working to convey. But the writer, cinematographer, actors, production designer and everyone else working on the film have also made invaluable contributions to the project. There are reasons why the DP shot something in a close-up, why the actor performed a line in particular way or the production designer painted a wall a certain color. It is important for the editor to become aware of the decisions that were made during the filming process and make sure these contributions are carried through to the finished film.

Be diligent.

There’s often a fine line between a mediocre film and a great film. When I first cut a scene, the initial limitations can be discouraging. But it’s in the process of reworking the material that unanticipated breakthroughs occur. By looking, and looking again, you begin to see the material in a different light and find a fresh way to keep the narrative moving forward. Cutting some of the dialogue may improve an actor’s performance. Moving a scene to another location may have a more dramatic effect. Sometimes this process requires the editor to go beyond the script, in search of the most cinematic way to convey the story.