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How An Editor Can Stay Focused Under Pressure

Editing is hard enough as it is. Editing under pressure is 4x harder. This week we’re going to dive into the topic of stress, deadlines and staying cool under fire.

Let’s look at two common situations that create intense editing pressure and some tips on how to deal with them.

Pressure Situation 1: Super-Tight Deadlines

We’ve all been there. Notes come in at 6pm. “Just rearrange your structure a bit to get A, B and C closer to the open. Could you also try inter-cutting between X, Y and Z near the end? And what if we tried some new music?”

Ouch. That’s gonna take a least a couple days,  maybe even a….

“…oh, and we need that by the morning.”

Guess it’s gonna be an all-nighter.

Everyone likes getting notes at 9:36pm…….right?


Well, there’s no way to avoid the hard work here, but there are a few ways to make sure it’s productive.

1 – Confirm that your assignment, notes, revisions, suggestions etc are accurate.

Double check with the producer or director to be sure there haven’t been any miscommunications. This happens more often than you might imagine. Sometimes it’s also tough to visualize the effect that some notes will have on the cut. Try your best to do so. Bring up any issues you can see arising and discuss them before heading off into a long night of editing.

2 – Break for exercise.

I don’t mean that you have to go hit the bench press for an hour at 3am or run 6 miles.

But don’t hesitate to get up from your desk and go walk around outside for 15 minutes. Doing 30-60 squats next to your desk will also do the trick.

You’ll rest your eyes, increase blood flow to your brain for clearer thinking and likely come back to the cut with new ideas – or at least feeling refreshed and ready to keep working.

3 – Know when to stop.

Your deadline might be at 9am but if you’ve been working till 2:30am and find that you’re no longer making progress, stop. Either go home and get some sleep or at least take a nap on the couch to refuel your brain.

Come back to the cut early the next morning with fresh(er) eyes and you’ll have a lot more luck. Just don’t forget to set your alarm to be back in the bay by 7am to finish it up.

Pressure Situation 2: Editing with a Crowd

Editing in front of other people in your room can sometimes be a fun, collaborative experience. Other times it can be stressful and awful.

Unfortunate, but true.

It’s extremely hard to keep your brain focused on solving the creative problems, while simultaneously addressing the technical craft, all while receiving live feedback from others in room.

A room full of people watching you work can be incredibly stressful.


In some cases, you might be able to get the space and privacy you need just by asking for it.

Sometimes by simply stating:

“So I actually have a few ideas in my head that I think will be really great but I need a bit of time to flesh them out in [your editing software]. If you like, I can spend a few hours working on them and let you know when they’re at a good place to check out.”

Now of course, this isn’t always possible.

In situations where you’re under a tight deadline and have a stressed-out director or producer who wants to be present for the cutting process, you’re stuck with them. Same goes for situations where you’re presenting a version of the cut and the studio execs or senior producers want to try a few things on the fly.

In these situations, keep calm, don’t rush, and stay focused on one task at a time.

Ideally, you can have someone else in the room to make small talk and keep people occupied as you make changes and revisions.

Proper organization will make your life infinitely easier and less stressful.

This is also where organization, speed and efficiency with your software will save the day. If you’ve setup your keyboard and interface for quick access, your life will be infinitely easier.

Can you remember a particularly stressful or high-pressure editing situation you’ve been in? Any war stories you’d like to share?

Leave a comment below and tell us!

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