The long dark winter of the edit

Blessed without a day job I’ve had hours upon hours to sit with my movie and polish the cut. The days blend together. I think I was sick a few weeks ago. Or was that last week? My birthday was a month ago and I’m not sure what I did that day or night.

I was thinking today, why does it get harder as you get closer to being done? There’s the sort of obvious answer, which is that it’s scary to ship stuff. It’s scary to say “here, this is it.” Much easier to say “this is the rough cut, what do you think?”

But I think there’s a practical (and unavoidable) reason why the last 20% takes 80% of the time.

It’s like when you go to the ophthalmologist1 and she’s flipping back and forth, number one or number two, how about four, that’s four, now five, etc.

It gets harder with each level because the difference is more noticeable, she’s tacking in from a wide chasm to a narrow one so each step gets progressively harder to detect a difference. When you can’t tell the difference anymore, that’s your prescription.

So movies. At the beginning, there’s lots of fast progress. You start the day and you have no scene and then a few hours later you have a scene. It’s not done necessarily but you took it from 0 to 0.8 in a day.

And then as you get deeper in, the changes become finer. It’s harder to tell the difference. Is it better this way or that way? How can I tell, I’ve been looking at this for days, maybe I’ll send it to a friend to see what they think.

All of this and the quality approaches a local maxima, an asymptote, as close as necessary to perfect.

And as you reach the asymptote, you start to question: are we really there? Is it done or do I just want it to be done?


  1. just realized I’ve been misspelling that as “opthamologist” my whole life 

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