Making a Sellable Pilot, Part 3: The Edit
This week we're talking about how to make a pilot presentation that sells. Specifically, we're talking about how to make a pilot presentation of Talk Show the Game Show. If that's not the show that you're making, some of the details might turn out differently.
On Tuesday we talked project discovery, and yesterday was about the shoot, so today we're going to discuss post-production, and I'm going to mention a few things that will make projects better. Also, today's entry turned out a little bit shorter than yesterday, because I've been cutting each section to the bone, just like you should! With your video, I mean. You don't want it getting overly long. Especially if it's about how much better things would be if other people would be more economical and decisive in their editing. That would be terrible.
Chapter 3: You're making a commercial
Every part of a production is about looking to the future. Pre-production is about preparing to shoot, which is about preparing for post, which is about preparing for viewers. You need to consider your audience, and how they would love to turn your video off and go do anything else.
Tip 1: A show is supposed to be entertaining
That means that if there are boring parts, cut them out. Mistakes too. If someone does something that seems untoward or unprofessional (and it doesn't get a laugh), you can drop it. With a live show, you can get boxed in by people making reference to events that happened earlier - that's fine, you don't need to surgically restructure the whole show if you don't want to.
Lots of cuts can be made invisibly, with your viewing audience none the wiser. Too many cuts might be surreal. This project was supposed to seem live and casual, so I wasn't about to try to polish up every sentence, but we dropped 5-10 minutes from the events that happened on the day, because 'the way it really happened' doesn't matter. You only see the take where the toothpaste curls perfectly on the brush.
Tip 2: Cheat!
Editing is like doing magic - if you put in an unreasonable amount of work you can learn to do something so well that nobody notices you did anything. Do your best to move the viewer's attention where it belongs. With a live program, I like cutting to someone just after they begin speaking. It mimics how you might track a conversation in person, or how a show that's broadcast live might take an instant to follow the action. After you've established this conversational rhythm, you occasionally get a bonus laugh by breaking it and being right on top of a sharp joke.
Hey, use that coverage you picked up! Judge Casey rings the bell and awards points all throughout the show. Even though the judge cam didn't cover him, I still got a few shots of him awarding points when I knew someone said something that was going to score, and we reused the shot in the edit.
If, hypothetically, one of the cameras sometimes cuts during the show, particularly at the part where that camera's angle is most needed, you'll be glad you have some options.
Tip 3: Audio is more important than video
Sketchy video quality makes videos seem authentic in the age of YouTube. Sketchy audio quality makes videos seem like they suck.
It's important that the performers voices are clear, and because we're making a commercial, it's important that the audience loves every single thing they say, To that end, here's what our sound track looks like:
You'll recall that we discussed keeping the audience visible to make it look like this show has to turn people away at the door. This is the audio equivalent. "Wow," you might say to yourself, "listen to those laughs! My boss will buy me a car if I greenlight this show!"
And greenlight it they did. Within about a week of the shoot, we sent out the edited, mixed, and colored video (today I wish I'd spent a little more time on all three of those, but obviously, the work done here was sufficient) and just one year later Guy was on a soundstage shooting a proper pilot. Join us for the exciting conclusion tomorrow, in which I will almost definitely wrap up with an ill-advised post on the business end of things.