I meet video editors on a regular basis, and generally speaking they want to talk about:
1. What editing software they use. (Final Cut, Avid, Adobe Premier – whatever)
2. What effects software they use. (After-Effects, Photoshop, Maya – whatever)
3. What cameras they like to edit footage from. (RED, DSLR, Canon C300 – whatever)
But I rarely talk to a video editor who wants to talk about storytelling. It seems really low on the food-chain for most editors. But the truth is, being able to tell a story is the single most important skill you need. That’s one reason I hate to see directors or editors sending demo reels that are “compilation” reels. You know the kind – they pick some hot tune and then cut single shots together from the last 50 projects they worked on. I’ve written before why I hate to see those kinds of demo reels. You can read that here.
So – if you’re a video editor and not a great storyteller, here’s what I’d do:
1. Read the book “Story” by Robert McKee. Most people think it’s just for screenwriters, but it’s a fascinating analysis of how to put a story together.
2. Start reading novels. Put down the video magazines and pick up Moby Dick. Novels will help you understand the flow, pacing, and style of great stories.
3. Watch story driven films and videos. I say “story driven” because sadly, a remarkable number of videos, TV programs, and even movies today are driven by something other than a great story. Learn to tell the difference.
4. Start exploring stories on a regular basis. There are plenty of books, conferences, and seminars on the subject.
The bottom line is that with commercials, short films, TV or movies, unless you can look at a file folder full of shots and craft a great story out of those images, you’ll never make much of a mark in the industry.
Experienced editors: What’s your best recommendation for improving storytelling skills?