Wednesday 8 August 2012

Eleven Tips on Editing Short Films

Jordan Kerfeld is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, and artist from Kansas City, Missouri. His films have appeared in film festivals and curated screenings around the globe and on PBS. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he received seven awards for his journalism and short films. He is currently studying for an MFA at the University of Texas. He also works as a video editor and producer

Jordan wrote a guide to editing short films for MovieScope magazine last July. Here are some of the main points from that article.

  • Short film editing boils down to a deceptively simple discipline: tell me a good story efficiently.
  • While feature films allow one to explore complicated thematic issues and and character, the strong short film is about articulating one clear idea.
  • Concentrate on two key questions:
  • 1. What is the idea driving it? If more than one comes to mind, eliminate the weakest ones.
    2. Ask whether the film as a whole can function without a scene, a line?
    Every minute, second and frame is precious in a short. Make each one count.
  • Much dialogue is completely unnecessary for narrative purposes. It's a character-building tool, and it is easy to get carried away.
  • Make actors look their best even if the script didn't give them anything to do.
  • Editing a short film is NOT about following the script beat-by-beat.
  • I can only edit the material in front of me, so I must be ready to make radical and bold decisions that draw out the best in the material and challenge my initial expectations.
  • I prefer to edit scenes in a way which conveys important story material but does not resolve cleanly.
  • Interest is generated when one can build tension and conflict in a scene and then flee from it to the next, while making it seem somewhat resolved.
  • I've discovered that continuity and match action editing are grossly overrated.
  • Make them wish the film were longer, not the other way around.

Here's a short film, called Knuckleball, made by Jordan Kerfeld about a year ago. 

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1 comment:

Anne Flournoy said...

Excellent summary of what matters in editing a short. And congratulations on Knuckleball!