Tell Me a Story… But Edit it First!

Photo by Denny Culbert

Our guest post this week is from Rachel Nederveld, a film producer, writer, musician and all around creative genius who also happens to be my sister. She recently wrote a
series for Vice on living in the swamps of Louisiana and is currently living out her dreams in the other LA, Los Angeles. If you need someone to produce a music video, or a partner in crime for an off-the-wall adventure, this is your gal.


One of the things that I love about film is all of the different aspects of storytelling that are tied into one – writing, lighting, acting, composition, and so on. It’s the director’s job to make sure that all of these are working together during production, the story is being told successfully through the delivery of the lines, the shadows carefully placed, the colors thought through on each set, the angles of the shot are appropriate for the scene. But the thing that really ends up tying them all together is something that all of these art forms have in common, and that is editing. In fact, editing is so important there is a theory that for the Oscars, Editing Nominations predict the Best Picture Winner.

When you go into production, you start with a script. When you come out, you end up with hours upon hours of footage to comb through. The original story is (or isn’t!) in there, but is it the best story? Which ideas on paper actually translated successfully visually and aurally and which ones didn’t? Is there a way to use your footage to tell the same idea better than originally planned? It is rare that the answer is a confident yes. So then the director takes their baby and places it in the tender love and care of an editor with confidence in their ability to do magic.

We_Can_EditOne of the hardest parts, especially in self editing, is to take out something that you love but that doesn’t add to the story. Say you have the most stunning view of a city at night. Or you somehow caught a jack rabbit running down the road into the sunset and it’s the most amazing and beautiful thing you’ve ever caught on camera. Maybe it’s a scene that you wrote that is so profound it made your friends cry when they read the script. And now things have changed and it doesn’t totally fit in, but man it’s such great dialogue how can you possibly take it out?

My favorite mantra in editing all mediums is less is more. When I’m writing even an email I always read it over and think, how can I say this in fewer words and still get the point across? I can’t count the number of times I’ve written a page long emotional email, saved it, then come back the next day and said the same things more successfully in two sentences. The same goes for film. A common rookie mistake is to be down to a 2.5 hour edit and believe NOTHING can be taken out.

Really, nothing?


In the age of the rise of the Indie/low budget everything, we now have the privilege of being able to over-create content. This is both a blessing and a curse. It’s worth the time, the thought, and the discipline if you want your end product to be the best it can be.  Just remember, no matter how hard it is, to stick to the core of your story and find the best way to communicate that idea.