If you follow this blog and like the other concepts that we talk about. I want to talk about what I believe is the most important task if you are going to make a movie with little to no money. This task that you must master is post production and non-linear editing. The reason is not only because this is the last rewrite and we know great movies tell great stories. It might be more about how an edit can make or break a movie. Just like one writer can write a scene completely different from another writer given the same task. One editor can ruin a film much easier than a great editor can make a movie work. We reference non-linear editing because it doesn’t cost a lot in hardware and software requirements.
Let us back up and talk about film productions and budgets. Even a tiny one million dollar budget. They can hire a team of editors. The name you see in the credits is the guy who was in charge. He didn’t actually sit at a computer and spend hours alone in a room reviewing footage and make cuts one edit at a time. No instead there was a team of people. One person who would just sort the footage. Someone to catalog each moment of audio and video and compare that to the script supervisors logs. Then there is someone who just designs the credits. Someone who does an audio edit. Another individual who color corrects the pictures. Then there is a folly and looping specialist. There are more than one assistant editors. And with a million dollars you can pay these people a working wage. You can have an office that everyday works out of and punches a time clock daily. All this ends up being a very small fraction of the films total budget. When you have a tiny budget and hire an editor to complete the post production this person has to wear too many hats. They aren’t getting a working wage. One person doing the job of a few dozen is going to need a lot more hours. This one person probably works out of their home or some location not being supervised or accountable to the production staff. The director isn’t going to be able to over see the edit because cumulatively it takes too many hours. In the end if the director is actually going to over see post production one working hour at a time they might as well do it themselves. In fact it would take the director less time to complete because they are already familiar with the picture. They already know the story they are trying to tell. They also have much more of a vested interest in the final success.
So to be very clear. One of the biggest mistakes film makers make when they make a small budget film is to not plan on doing the post production themselves. It’s also a great learning experience for the director to understand what shots they are missing and how the story actually pieces together. You learn more doing the film edit than you will during the entire rest of the project. If you think you are going to pay one person $5k or even $10k to end a feature film you will always be disappointed. It’s possible if you have a friend or someone you have worked with in the past they might get the job done for you on that budget. It’s not going to be great money. Let’s be realistic one person working 40 hours a week is not going to get a quality edit done in a month. They might be able to get you a rough cut. So now you have 25% of the edit done. The rough cut is the toughest part of the post production process. If they got 1/4 of post done in one month and you are paying them $5k for the edit then they just worked an entire month for $1250. That translates to less than minimum wage in some cities. After a rough cut you need to do a few more edits. Then you as the film maker will have a lot of change requests. Most editors even ones with experience will have a tough time getting a feature film edit done in less than 500 hours. Good luck getting it in even 4 months of full time work.
So what can you do? You learn how to operate a program like Adobe Premier. That would be my suggestion. There are other options the best alternative is Avid. There is also final cut and vegas video which are decent options. If you are going to teach yourself how to use Adobe the software comes with some great tutorials. If you run through the tutorials you can teach yourself to be just as qualified as most editors who work on independent films. There are also tons of youtube videos if you have specific questions. Udemy offers a few very decent courses on how to use Adobe for $10 if you catch one of their sales. They seem to run sales for everything from summer time to July 4th or Christmas. You could find a local class which is a good way. If you own a apple with their apple care you can get one one one help in an Apple Store. They also have free classes on how to use their software. Final Cut isn’t bad option. Dollar for dollar Adobe Premier is the best option and it can do everything any Hollywood production would ever need. You can pay a monthly license fee and cancel when post production is completed. The entire suite of programs is under $100 per month. You should start with just Premier so it won’t cost very much. Adobe is fairly good for Audio but for color correction most people use a free program from Black Magic called DaVinci Resolve.
Normally I wouldn’t advocate buying expensive equipment but a mac book air or mac book pro has enough power to edit HD video. Hint don’t film your first project in 4k. Normal HD requires a fraction of the speed and processing power compared to 4K. It’s also nice to be portable allowing you to edit on set or any place you want.
So get yourself a computer wih Adobe Premier and do the edit as you go one scene at a time. Try a short or concept reel to raise money. Get some footage that you have shot and practice. Do some test shots with potential cast members.