'Silver Linings' Editor Crispin Struthers on How to Combat Blank Timelines & Creative Blocks

Staring at an empty editing timeline is a lot like staring at an empty page.

It's equally terrifying and thrilling, compiling raw footage and editing them into a coherent, emotional film, considering the endless possibilities and directions you can take. But when so much (or so little) is staring at you in the face, how do you stay creative? Oscar-nominated editor of Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and Earth to Echo, Crispin Struthers details for us his process in this episode of Academy Originals "Creative Spark":

If you don't have time to watch the video, here are a few takeaways.

"Creativity is revealing something of your self."

Even if you didn't shoot, write, or come up with the film your editing, it will be your movie during the entire duration of your work. Because creativity is all about expressing yourself, and once you're finished editing a film, it'll have your unique fingerprints all over it -- your sensibilities and your ideas. This doesn't mean that you ignore the director's vision for the project, it just means that you allow yourself the space to emotionally connect with the work, letting it leave an impression on you as you leave your impression on it.

What do your instincts say?

There's a lot of collaboration . Not only that, but you have a lot of people to answer to, including producers and the director, and you'll have to make edits based on their notes, some of which you may not agree with and hate outright. But editing a film also includes a ton of alone time, and it's during this time, when you're alone editing drinking a case of Red Bull, that you need to trust and follow your instincts. Don't overthink. Don't second guess. Don't obsess about how the director or anyone else would want you to edit the film, because at the end of the day, you're the expert and the artist who knows how to splice shots together to form something emotional, kinetic, and cohesive.

The movie is more important than any particular moment

It's easy to get attached to a sequence or scene that you edit the absolute sh** out of. You're looking at it, it's gorgeous, it's sexy -- you wish it existed back when you were in high school, so you could've taken it to prom. However, if it doesn't the overall film better, even if it's got all the right moves on its own, you need to chuck it. Why? Because the film is the important thing here.

Some of your best ideas will come when you're away from your screen

If you're having a tough time coming up with new ideas or solutions to problems, you might need to just -- walk away for a while. This is because it's not so much that you come up with new ideas or solutions, it's that you find them (or they find you). That creative spark might be hiding along a stretch of highway, or in a bowl of cereal, or inside the words of some random conversation.     

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4 Comments

No matter how long you've been editing, or how much you know, there's always something new to add to the knowledge bank.

September 30, 2015 at 10:13PM, Edited September 30, 10:14PM

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Interesting to see him using a Wacom tablet during editing! Would be curious to experience how that feels; hadn't even crossed my mind...

October 1, 2015 at 12:59AM, Edited October 1, 12:59AM

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Samu Amunét
Director
335

I'm sitting in a room with 10 assistant editors and not one mouse. Give it a serious try and you'll never go back.

October 1, 2015 at 12:41PM

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Ronnie Shatto
Editor
87

I would never cut without my wacom. It's how I avoid carpal tunnel.

October 1, 2015 at 5:20AM

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Stu Mannion
writer/dir/dp
1103

I had that green book on the shelf, "On Film Editing." We studied it in film school. I still refer to it; it is my editing bible.

October 1, 2016 at 4:57PM, Edited October 1, 4:57PM

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