Receiving feedback on your work is a critical part of your creative and technical development as an editor. However, it can sometimes be difficult to find someone who is both willing and able to provide the constructive, knowledgeable, and thoughtful feedback necessary to aid your growth.
One of the reasons I started my company, EditStock, was to help solve this problem. An online resource for editors and aspiring editors looking to practice their craft, EditStock not only offers a diverse selection of high quality footage for purchase, but also presents the opportunity to receive personal, customized feedback from professionals.
But why, exactly, is good feedback so hard to find? Last week, I discovered a series of informational videos made by cartoonist Will Terrell. Although Terrell was addressing visual artists like himself, I was amazed at how closely his experiences paralleled those of so many burgeoning editors, and I would like to share some of his insights with you today.
Who Gives Good Feedback?
When it comes to feedback, source matters. Friends, family, teachers, and working professionals will all have drastically different points of view on your work. Furthermore, the best feedback sources can vary depending on your skill level.
When you’re starting out, feedback from anyone is helpful. New editors generally make the kinds of mistakes that almost anyone can recognize and help correct. However, as your work improves, feedback from someone educated and proficient in the craft of editing — such as a teacher or working professional — will be much more beneficial. At this “intermediate” skill level, your cuts will be smooth enough that untrained eyes probably won’t notice what isn’t working.
Terrell points out that working professionals are generally the best at guiding your work towards that “level up”, since their years of hands-on experience enable them to quickly identify the problems in your edits. But unfortunately, professionals get many more requests for their advice than they can respond to, especially if they have any power over hiring. In Terrell’s words, “It starts to turn into noise after a while.” Therefore, while a professional's perspective may be ideal, keep in mind that they may not be able to give your work their undivided attention, or any attention at all.
Also, don’t discount your family and friends. They may not be the best critics of technique, but they can offer wonderful insight simply by being viewers. Show them your work and pay attention to their reactions. Did they laugh at the jokes? Did they get teary eyed at the poignant moments? Did they check their phones a lot? Did they appear engaged or confused? This kind of non-verbal feedback can be extremely valuable for editors as well.
Honest Feedback vs. “A Pat on the Back”
One of the reasons it can be difficult to receive quality feedback is that sometimes what we’re really looking for is a pat on the back. Before you submit your cut, ask yourself if you want honest feedback or just positive “cheerleading.” Remember, approval can be helpful in certain contexts, but it doesn’t develop skill.
When I receive cuts at EditStock, I don’t know how long they took to cut, what software glitches you fixed, or how well you slept the night before. All I know about your work is what I see in front of me. That’s why I encourage people to take the opportunity for feedback seriously and to make sure that they’re truly happy with what they’re turning in. It’s important to tell the difference between those moments when you want honest feedback on something you’re proud of and those moments when you simply need support or encouragement.
Even when you’re feeling frustrated or unsure, showing confidence is important. When you show somebody a cut, it can be tempting to keep expectations low by saying something like, “I’m not happy with it yet, I just wanted to show it to you.” Try not to apologize for your work — especially before anyone has even seen it! It’s kind of like giving someone an old shoe and saying, “Eww, gross, smell this.” Their reaction probably won’t be, “Oh, this doesn’t smell that bad” so much as “I don’t want to smell that!”
Not Even the Best Feedback Can Replace Work
When many young artists seek advice or feedback, they seem to be seeking what Terrell calls a “magic bullet” — one piece of “secret”, insider wisdom that will put them on the fast track to success. But, as Terrell so rightly points out, the only way to get better at your craft is to put in the work. When Terrell looks at young illustrators’ portfolios, he often tells them that what’s missing is “mileage” — hours upon hours of learning by doing.
When editors are starting out, most ask for a onetime review of their work. What they should be looking for is a consistent feedback loop — a community or program that allows them to receive notes, implement changes, and offer the same cut up for review again and again until they create the strongest cut possible. In my experience, feature film editors usually rework a cut for about 10 weeks, for about 10 hours a day, all in response to the feedback from the director. Movie magic is made by mileage.
At EditStock, our feedback is given by professionals using Screenlight’s online review and approval platform. As a result, the notes process is personal and interactive — you can reply to the notes we provide and even resubmit your cut multiple times for new notes. Our goal is to make professional advice accessible to anyone looking for the detailed, constructive feedback that they may not be able to receive in person. I encourage you all to grab EditStock’s free sample scene, cut it together, and try our feedback process for yourself: http://editstock.com/pages/feedback
Finally, I leave you with two words: Push yourself. Don’t try to make something that is merely “good.” As Terrell says, “Good is the enemy of great.” Good edits are not great edits, and the road from good to great is often longer and tougher than the road from bad to good. Dig deep, experiment fearlessly, and — most importantly — put in the time to create work you’re proud of. It won’t be long before people start asking for your feedback, too.