How long does it take to edit a movie

How long does it take to edit a movie

an abridged excerpt from his widely acclaimed book: “raindance, filmmaking with little or no budget”

Classic film editing has developed a methodology that structures the work process in precise stages, a methodology that is very similar in every country in the world.

each stage has its own procedure and order:

1. record

journals or commits are classified and labeled in “bins”. each shot may contain additional notes from the director or cinematographer. this is the first time the editor has seen the film, and since it is out of sequence, it is out of the context of the story. a good editor sees the rush and looks for fluidity of movement and nuance that will later be incorporated into the film.

2. first montage

The editor considers all the visual and audio material collected on set for each scene and then rearranges it in the best way to tell the story.

In the scene above, the editor may decide to open with an aerial shot of central london and then move on to buckingham palace. the next shot could be a close-up of the hands followed by a dissolving shot of the banjo-playing bum’s hands. there are dozens of possible combinations the editor can choose from for this simple sequence, each creating a different mood and telling a different story.

Editing on a big-budget feature film usually begins as soon as the film begins shooting. an editor will work on the close-ups and cut the scenes for the director and producer to see. Often at this point the editor and director will decide that additional sequences of key moments are needed to make more editing options available during editing.

tip: the first montage is like a sketch of the finished scene. it’s a good idea to save these sketches to refer to later, in case the editor gets stuck.

3. rough cut and variations

Preview can take up to three months to complete. each editor works differently. sometimes the editor works alone and shows the day’s or week’s work to the director and producer, sometimes the editor and director work together, discussing every nuance.

In the preliminary cut, the scenes are placed in order and checked for continuity. this very important step in the editing process allows you to try and test revisions and new ideas.

tip: make the edit points between scenes very obvious to emphasize the “roughness”. if you don’t, the editor may commit to an edit before it’s ready.

4. first cut

The first cut is the preliminary cut accepted by the editor, director and producer. the selection and sequence are basically fixed, although changes can still be made. the last movie is visible. the fine and detailed cut starts from its proportions, structures, rhythms and emphasizes them. tip: never be afraid to let the first cut “rest” for a few days so everyone involved can see it with fresh eyes.

5. fine cut

fine cutting no longer focuses on the entire movie, but on the details of each and every cut. the fine cut emphasizes and strengthens the rhythms and structures identified in the first cut.

6. final cut

When a fine cut has been agreed upon with the editor, the director and producer, sound designer, music composer and title designer join the editor. sound effects and music are created and added to the final cut. When everyone agrees on the final cut, the editing decision list is sent to the lab where a negative cutter “shapes” the negative with the edl to create a negative that is an exact copy of the final cut.


Now that your film is finished, why not submit it to the raindance film festival?

did you know?

  • raindance film festival is considered one of the top fifteen film festivals in the world.
  • raindance film school london offers hnd, ba and ma in film and screenwriting.
  • let raindance guide you on your cinematic journey. call +44 (0) 207 930 3412 or email
  • raindance members support independent film and enjoy a variety of benefits

raindance editing course:

practical foundation for film editing

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