A few months ago, we shared an excellent short animation that detailed the ins and outs of what exactly an experienced editor does. Although we only briefly mentioned it at the time, that video was an advertisement for Inside the Edit, a soon-to-be-released online creative editing course. Yesterday marked the official release of Inside the Edit, and we here at No Film School couldn't be more excited about the tremendous potential value that this course offers to aspiring editors wishing to break into the industry. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Paddy Bird, the founder of Inside the Edit, about what sets this course apart from any other editing course on the market today.
First up, for those of you that missed the short Inside the Edit promo that took the online filmmaking community by storm a few months back, here it is:
Now let's get to the interview with Paddy! I'll also embed all of their example tutorials and footage so that you can get an even better sense of what Inside the Edit is all about.
NFS: First of all, Paddy, tell our audience a little bit about who you are, what you do, and what your background is in regards to filmmaking. How did you become interested in editing as a profession, and what steps did you take once that you had decided that was what you wanted to do?
PB: I’ve been a documentary and entertainment television editor for around 16 years. I’ve cut dozens of political docs, science docs, historical docs as well as many of the big format entertainment and reality shows for UK and US TV. I’ve worked for the BBC, ITV (UK), Channel 4 (UK) Discovery, National Geographic, The Smithsonian Channel, ABC and NBC.
I actually fell into editing by mistake. I was working in a small production company in the late 1990s producing corporate films. There were only three of us on the team and we all took turns to shoot, direct, sound operate, edit, and present. We didn’t really know what we were doing but we were all very passionate. My two colleagues both wanted to be directors and were not that interested in editing, so I was forced into the cutting room out of necessity.
It only took a few days to get the editing bug. I got obsessed with it very quickly and actually locked myself away in the company Avid suite for about six months without going anywhere. I loved the idea of thousands of creative possibilities from any one set of rushes as well as the power of narrative construction.
Over a couple of years we produced dozens of short films and corporate videos which was a fantastic training ground for all of us. I would edit anything: low-budget music videos, feature films, charity films and commercials. I offered to cut actors' showreels for a bottle of wine and a pizza through the night! I just knew I needed to get as many editing hours under my belt as possible.
I was very lucky that a friend of mine started working at a post production agency and she gave me a shot at working on short packages for daytime TV shows. Once I had a few credits on my CV I slowly built up a client list over a few years. I moved into reality TV around the millennium as that genre exploded around the world, but the most difficult genre to get into was documentary. That took quite a few years.
By the time I started Inside The Edit a decade and a half later I estimated that I’d clocked up over 40,000 hours in the cutting room.
NFS: What is Inside the Edit, and who is it for?
PB: Inside The Edit is the world’s first truly creative editing course. It’s aimed at anyone who is working or wanting to work in primetime level documentaries or entertainment television. From teenagers studying media in college to TV directors who want to expand their skills. There’s simply nothing out there anywhere near as detailed as what we’ve created. Edit training courses are 95% technical and 5% creative. It seemed to me that the editing being taught in various training books, media degrees and film schools was all based around getting you to learn as much of a software interface as possible while taking you through only very basic editing theory. I took a very long and hard look at what the training landscape was like over the last few years, I talked to a lot of editing friends and attacked the problem from several different angles. I realised that there were several barriers to becoming an editor and why on average it took between 5 to 10 years to master it.
Firstly, most television editors learn in isolation. They are self-taught artisans who figure out a large percentage of their craft by themselves. It’s a truly bizarre fact. We teach ourselves by analyzing and making tons of mistakes. There is no one to tell us any of the high level theory that we need as a pro editor. This made me realize that it really doesn’t need to be this long because as far as I had researched, no one had ever really poured a decade and a half of high level experience out into a course, to essentially compress that decade of self teaching.
Secondly, I had been teaching FCP and Avid courses for a couple of years and the most often asked question I got at the end of each course was, “What do I do now? How do I get a job as an editor?” Broadcasters and production companies are only interested in two things: your CV and your showreel. What have you worked on. Students would always ask me how they could build a showreel and the answer was unfortunately that it’s next to impossible. No production company or broadcaster is going to let you loose on a couple of hundreds grand worth of footage. Why would they take that chance? So the second big barrier was getting your hands on raw uncut rushes to practice on. In all of the other training courses you get a bare minimum of rushes to practice on. Certainly nothing that you could craft into any kind of long form narrative.
It’s another bizarre fact that no company in the history of television or film has ever sold raw uncut rushes before. So, we went out and shot a one hour primetime level documentary over a two-year period with around 35 hours of rushes.
A generation ago you were an assistant and you sat behind an editor for several years and watched them. They would talk you through why they were doing this or that. Unfortunately those days are over.
For about 18 months around 2006/2007 I took a break from editing and starting teaching FCP and Avid at Soho Editors, I noticed that the course materials for all of the standard courses that were taught were all technical with only a very small amount of basic editing theory. There certainly wasn’t or isn’t now, any of the high-end creative theory that you need to become a top-level editor being taught. I spent a very long time researching what all the books, other courses, film schools were teaching and realised that no one was really teaching the thousands of creative decisions and different mindsets you needed at every single stage of the editing process.
NFS: There are a ton of ways for people to learn the art and technicality of editing these days, whether it’s through film school, seminars, books, or online videos. What sets Inside the Edit apart from every other way to learn about editing? Obviously the course is a bit pricey compared to some of the other options. What value does the course provide, and how does that value compare to the cost?
PB: There are a ton of ways to learn the technical side of editing, but after three years of searching we have yet to find a primetime level creative course. There are a few courses out there that do teach a bit of creative theory but unfortunately they’re based around cutting low-end corporate videos and things like that. We haven’t found anyone or anything who is at the highest level of editing who is teaching the hundreds of different concepts and techniques that you need to know as a pro editor. We haven’t found anyone who allows students to practice on a full set of uncut broadcast level rushes. And we have’t found anywhere that imparts all of complexities of what directors, producers and execs expect from you at every single stage of the process.
"We are giving our students a huge amount of theory that is just simply not available anywhere else, not even at film school. They're getting to practice for the first time on a hundred grand's worth of documentary footage. We're training your mind so that you are actually employable after a years study. That's what sets us apart from anyone else."
I’ll give you a small example. Actuality style shooting is one of the most popular genres in broadcast. It fills up everything from high brow observational documentaries to entertainment and reality TV. Who is teaching how to cut this? I did it for years and I’ve never seen any book, manual or course on the laws and structure of a genre that takes up a huge percentage of worldwide broadcast output. How do you structure a retrospective or prospective observational scene? How do you create jeopardy in a scene when it wasn’t there in the rushes?
It’s amazing how much people are willing to spend on the technical side of filmmaking. Apple Macs costs thousands, your 5D kit will cost you thousands. The industry is heavily weighted towards the technical. I remember talking to a senior TV exec friend of mine about young people entering the industry and making short films and stuff. He said a very interesting thing to me, that most young people want to shoot on 4K and the grading must be perfect. We have a ton of very talented people who do all that, what we are in very short supply of within the industry is people who can tell stories to a high level.
So we are giving our students a huge amount of theory that is just simply not available anywhere else, not even at film school, getting to practice for the first time on a $100K's worth of documentary footage and training your mind so that you are actually employable after a years study sets us apart from anyone else. You can make a very nice living as an editor, but it will take you many, many years of trial and error and a lot of luck on top. We want to compress that decade down to just one year.
NFS: Inside the Edit is being marketed as an entirely creative editing course that doesn’t teach the basics or the complexities of any NLE. With that said, you’re obviously cutting on Avid for the tutorials. Will somebody using Premiere Pro, Final Cut, or any other software have a difficult time translating the techniques that you’re teaching into their respective NLEs? How do you ensure that the course remains accessible to everybody regardless of what software they’re using? Will somebody proficient in Avid have an easier time with the course material than somebody who isn’t familiar with the software?
PB: It’s strange, but I worked out that probably 95% of my cutting day is spent using 9 buttons and some trimming. Most of these buttons are either the same or very similar on all three of the major NLE systems. All three are all excellent and I’ve used all of them. But a timeline is a timeline. In long form documentary and entertainment television you're using a couple of video layers and about eight to ten audio layers. They all appear as blocks on the timeline in the same way so the theory we teach can be practiced on any system. We pay zero attention to anything technical, there are many companies out there who do that very well, but that is not us.
NFS: Since the course comes with a hard drive packed with documentary footage, is it safe to assume that Inside the Edit is a documentary editing course? Should people who are looking to build a career in narrative fiction editing take this course?
PB: There’s a fantastic quote by the legendary Thelma Schoonmaker, “Because I was trained in documentaries originally and that's what happens in a documentary. You're given the whole lump of wonderful footage and you have to figure out a way to make it into a story, into a structure and so, that prepared me beautifully for doing improvisational cutting. I love it."
Learning how to construct and craft a narrative or build an action sequence as quickly as possible by training your mind how to see that form and logic when watching raw rushes is what we do in television. There is a very strong path from television into drama.
NFS: Is there any pre-requisite knowledge that people will need in order to get the most out of Inside the Edit? Should someone thinking about purchasing the course already be a proficient editor, or at least proficient in editing software?
PB: We say that you need a basic grasp of your NLE system. If you know how to ingest the footage, mark up clips, edit them down onto the timeline, trim and move the clips around then you're ready.
NFS: Is there anything else that you would like to share with the No Film School community about Inside the Edit?
PB: We have so much planned for Inside The Edit. Over the next few months, we will be adding more original content as well as regular features teaching our students how to be the best editor possible. We have a really exciting year ahead planned!
You can currently purchase the course with a 25% discount available for 2 weeks only until the 3rd September.
Inside the Edit is now live and fully operational. If you're interested in the course, or if you have any questions, head on over to the Inside the Edit website for more information.
Link: Inside the Edit