Self censoring is the hardest lesson for any filmmaker to learn, especially if he/she is also the director, writer and or producer. I spent about 20 years OF my career editing films that were overly long, and overly self aggrandizing. In short, ego took over a job which requires an ultra critical eye and a set of guidelines which must be adhered to for the good of the project. But what do you do when you KNOW that you KNOW your project better than any third party? Here’s some thoughts on that issue…..
I have found that my cutting on action skill, which was developed from 40 plus years as a martial arts expert and film expert, make it difficult to trust my work in the hands of another editor. This, however also blinded me to the fact that by being on set, and also writing and directing, I would have a hard time being objective, and picking out shots that were NECESSARY to the film, as opposed to the quandary of “missing out on that beautiful shot which meant absolutely zero to the continuity of the story.
I have found that I was able to be successful when I took a simple rule with me into the edit: If a scene is cut, and it has no effect on the overall look of the movie, cut it.
I also tell myself that any shots I think are “really cool” and cannot be cut out, are usually my ego talking and may be cool, but should be cut out. For years, I had the disease of “please everyone on the crew including myself”. Now, I set a goal of about two ours running time, and if something I think is “essential” doesn’t fit into that time frame, it goes.
I have gotten so good, that I have cut people out of my films entirely to fit the time frame, and even cut out those “cool ass” shots of myself, because I have become very conscious about being a casual observer instead of my own best fan. It’s hard, but it can be done. Once you learn it’s “business” and how best to sell the film, instead of making yourself look really artsy and cool, you can edit your own work successfully. Took me 2o years to figure it out, but I did it. You can too.