Bricks, Walls, and the Art of Organization

Being well-organized is a virtue listed in almost every job posting seeking an editor, and with good reason – it's incredibly important. But beyond the need for basic file organization, the process of using bins within a project can sometimes move past a technical, administrative task to a useful creative tool.

I recently started editing a project that has to unpack a message with many parts to it, through many voices. Unlike a film that has distinct scenes, organizing here could go a few ways: by person, theme, etc, but in the end those weren't getting me any closer to putting together a cohesive argument, story or film. It reminded me of a talk I heard from Alan Berliner on editing. He said he names bins based on emotions, or abstract terms that will trigger emotions (I'm paraphrasing here) – basically words to conjure what experience and feeling one gets from the specific footage and wants to reinforce in the edit. And what's left is building blocks of a different fabric than just their literal content.

Maybe diverging from such strictly intellectual categorization of clips can give more insight into what the building blocks of any given film should be. Certainly the uniqueness of any project will call for a unique process – and I've come to find that when embarking on a new edit, it's exciting and fascinating to explore the question: "what are the building blocks for this edit going to be".

(I'm now reminded of one of Brian Eno's more oblique Oblique Strategies cards: Not building a wall; making a brick.)