Tip for story editors: How to script transitions for your editor

This is a tip specifically for story editors or writers working on reality television, news, documentaries, etc.

The pressure is on.  Often, you have very little time to check the footage and create a compelling quilt from all those tiny bits and pieces (more on this in a future post). However, please take the time to remember…stories are visual.

When you hand your editor a script, be sure you’ve looked over the footage and that the transitions make sense visually as well as from a dialogue standpoint.  Seamlessly cutting from one location/scene to another depends on many aspects – the time of day, the location, the character speaking and the context of what they are saying.

If you can stitch your script together and take special care to envision the scene transitions visually, your editor will thank you!

For example, cutting from one person talking in the kitchen to another person talking in the courtyard isn’t very attractive for the cut and probably will be jarring to your audience.  If you write a sequence that starts with a medium close-up of the cook in the kitchen talking about the herbs he’s putting in the stew, cut to a close up of his hands cutting those herbs with a knife then cross dissolve to a close up of a pair of scissors in the garden and pan up to the gardener cutting more herbs, then you’ve created a nice little transition for your editor.

Oh, don’t forget to include the clip number and time-code for every shot.

Editors cost a lot of money.  If you can save your editor time, you will have endeared yourself to your producers.  That is a good thing.  If the boss likes you and your work, you’ll most likely get hired again!

Cirina Catania, Writer/Director