Many Film and TV Directors could be tempted to agree: experience in the edit suite is an incredible tool to learn and grow as a Director. We have to admit, the suite will not teach you to work with your cast and crew and communicate your vision. It will, however, let you see what works and what does not, and how different Directors have different strategies to assemble the building blocks that will become the film. Being a first, second or third Assistant Director will give you the invaluable experience on set. But, those roles seem to prepare you for a life as a Production Manager or a Producer; in a way, the assistants are there to remove those less ‘creative’ duties from the director’s plate.
If we were to compare filmmaking with architecture, which some directors might do while others might opt for a more ‘organic’ approach, we can easily trace parallels between the various phases of development and ‘construction’. The architect and his team work on paper and with CG imaging software to imagine the building, figure out its infrastructure, the materials and labor that will be needed, and the costs associated with the project and sometimes the purchase/lease of the land. The same will happen with the script, the storyboards, the schedules, the budget and hopefully the distribution deals that will be devised during preproduction.
The next phase is the manufacturing of all the various elements (bricks, tubes, electrical cabling,…) that will be needed during the building. All these ‘elements’ need to be manufactured from raw materials before they can make their way to the building site. The same will happen on and around the set, the various bits and pieces, the wardrobe, the props, the rehearsal, the lighting, the rigs, the magic during the takes, the film lab and/or the digital conversions will all contribute to create the various ‘clips’ , and everything will be stored in the editorial department ready to be accessed by the Director and Editors.
Finally, on the building site everything gets ‘assembled’. The same will happen in the edit suite. There are a variety of possible outcomes ranging from award winning architectural wonders to disastrous buildings that will collapse soon after their completion and create death (of careers) and severe injuries. The causes of the collapse could come from any of the stages of development, manufacturing or assembly, but these reasons only becomes obvious after the collapse, and that often happens in the edit suite. There, however, we still get a shot at fixing this ’causes’ before the ‘building’ gets released to the public. From Seneca the Younger,“Errare humanum est, perseverare autem diabolicum, et tertia non datur” To err is human; to persist [in committing such errors] is of the devil, and the third possibility is not given.” We learn from our errors, and the edit suite is always educational and sometimes even forgiving.