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How To Deal With Client Notes And Changes

Let’s be honest. No editor wants to get notes.

However, receiving, interpreting and executing notes effectively is one skill that separates professional editors from the amateurs. Let’s take a look at some tips for dealing with them.

The Amateur Editor’s Reaction To Notes

After spending countless hours carefully piecing together a cut in the way you think works best, why would you want to listen to someone else’s criticism of your work? Why would you want some amateur producer or studio exec with bad taste to ruin all your hard work?

Don’t they realize that you cut things together a certain way for a reason?

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Addressing client notes is part of the game

Yeah, notes aren’t fun – but this is the real world so get used to them.

And…if we’re all really honest with ourselves, we don’t know everything.

As many times as a cut is “ruined” by bad notes, there are even more occasions where a piece is improved by listening to the feedback of other creative, perceptive and intelligent people.

Amateurs will balk at revisions and fight every note tooth and nail.

Professionals will listen with an open mind, consider the impact of the suggested change and either agree, suggest an alternative or delicately point out the pitfalls of the idea.

Amateurs will balk at revisions and fight every note tooth and nail.

Professionals will listen with an open mind, consider the impact of the suggested change and either agree, suggest an alternative or delicately point out the pitfalls of the idea.

Understand the Reason For the Notes

Try to understand why the director / producer / client is giving the note in the first place. Sometimes the reason is more important than the note.

You should seek to interpret and understand what the note is trying to achieve rather than just look at the surface level suggestion. That way you can be sure your changes satisfy the underlying objective.

Take this sample trailer/promo note for example:

“The ending of your cut feels like it doesn’t reach a big enough climax. Make the music bigger there.”

Now, maybe the solution is indeed to pump the volume of the music, or find a bigger part of it, or add a rise underneath, etc.

Or, maybe that’s not the real problem.

The real problem could be:

1 – Maybe the cut got too big too soon in the piece and there was no place for the intensity to climb at the very end. It might be a matter of toning down earlier parts of the cut rather than amping up the end section.

2 – Or maybe the music has nothing to do with it. Maybe it’s the lack of emotional build and intensity that’s making the ending feel small. Maybe your backend picture needs to contain more displays of big human emotion like tears, yelling, and powerfully-delivered lines.

Getting to the bottom of a suggested note will ultimately help you execute changes in a way that actually fixes the issue and fully addresses the concerns of the note-giver.

REMEMBER: Making revisions is part of being an editor.

Approach your version 2 with the same passion and craftsmanship as you did on v1.

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