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Arts & Entertainment

Editing and Testing Films, Part 1

Judd Apatow

Lesson time 9:40 min

Judd shares some words to live by for editing films and illustrates how you can use the testing process to make your projects as strong and funny as possible.

Judd Apatow
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Judd Apatow teaches you how to write, direct, produce, and perform comedy for film and television.
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While I'm shooting, I ask the editors to send me what they're cutting. Certainly for the weekend, I'll say, send me everything you've cut during the week. But if I'm in the mood, I might say, at the end of every day, send me what you cut today so I can get a feel, especially at the beginning of a shoot, of what the movie is becoming. Sometimes you watch it and you think, oh my god, this totally works. I'm so excited. This is the vibe, and you can follow that. Or you might notice something that an actress does and go, oh, oh, she's so funny doing this. OK, I see how that's going to affect that. Or you might think, oh, this seems really down. I've got to lift that up a little bit. This performance is a little depressing. And that's something that you're learning by watching not just the dailies, as much as you can watch them, but watching cuts. Then I also try to give notes to the editor certainly every weekend on everything they cut that week so that they can be fixing things. So when I wrap, the editor might take a few weeks to do all the notes that they've already gotten during the shoot, and then the first time I see it, it will be stronger than if I hadn't given any notes. The first time you see a movie is usually painful because it's just a big mess and it's not what you want it to be and you haven't found it yet. Hopefully, there are scenes in it where you think, that's the movie. Let's make it all as good as that. So say a movie is 85 scenes. Usually, you watch it and there's 20 you love and 20 that are OK and 20 that are not that good and 20 that are terrible. And how I approach it is I say, let's go straight to the scenes that make me want to kill myself and let's just lift those up so I don't want to kill myself. Then I might say, now let's fix the last 20 minutes. I just want to know if the ending will work, because if the ending doesn't work, we're fucked. So we might as well know that, because if doesn't work, we have to reshoot something. So let's jump to the third act and let's fix that. And I'll do that with a few key things, like, here are the things that if I didn't do a good job, we are in big trouble. For instance, the end of "Trainwreck" is this cheerleading sequence. So early in editing, I'll say, let's look at the cheerleading sequence. Are we OK? Can we get out of this movie? Does it work? Is it funny? Is it emotional? Do you buy it? And then I breathe a sigh of relief when I know that. And then I might say, OK, what about the scene where the intern and Amy Schumer are fooling around? Is it creepy? Is it funny? Is it too dark? Is it hilarious? Let's look at it. And OK, wow, that came out great. We're good. We're good. And I'll go to my scenes of biggest concern and make sure they're strong and what we wanted them to be because there are always scenes that you think, that's a great scene, but there is a chance that we didn't execute it properly. Or it's a great idea for a scene, but when you shoot it, it doesn't ...

Get serious about comedy

No joke: at age 15, Judd Apatow took a dishwashing job at a comedy club to watch the acts. Today, he’s the comedic genius behind hits including The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Bridesmaids, and Freaks and Geeks. In his first-ever online comedy class, the Emmy Award winner teaches you how to create hilarious storylines, write great stand-up, and direct movies that leave audiences laughing.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Thank you, Judd. Loved hearing your insight and will put your guidance to use.

to take action, to write in a daily basis… to record" my cinematograpchis live scenes…. to lean in the bomb…. i am happier… even whitout doing a lot of the homeworks… :) .i Will. Thanks, I love JEwd Appatow.

I will listen to this multiple times. It was really helpful.

a huge amount of quality information in this class! well done and thank you mr. apatow


Heather H.

Such great director's editing advice - beginning to end. The rough cut is a bit like a home renovation. There are overwhelming moments where everything's such a mess, you wonder if you'll be able to pull any semblance of what you envisioned together - much less in time and under budget - but all the pieces are there.

Tara R.

Note to self: The perfect amount of screen time for a penis is four seconds...

J.C. S.

In our last comedy, No Kaddish For Weinstein, our protagonist, played by Jason Claude Scott, who you might remember from The Yodeling Memoirs, played a strung-out string puppet who sells his soul to the devil for his health, and a big box of waxed fruit. He was naked three times in the movie but we only shot him from behind and each time we showed the movie to a Test Audience, they begged us afterward to show more scenes of him naked. What we found out was the mall we were drawing our Test Audiences from had a Theater attached to it which only showed Porn movies and many of these people were patrons of that establishment. You've got to be careful where you're drawing your Test Audiences from.

Jason T.

Love the discussion about process, notes, how you approach what doesn’t work and what does work. All of the techniques focused on managing a challenging process more easily.

Amy J.

Walking out on a penis shot is so immature. Jason Segal is a big dude and they say the camera adds ten pounds. Soooo. basically that dude could smack the audience with it and force them to watch.

Heather W.

As I've mentioned before, I am not and won't be a film-maker, nor a comedian, but I am a writer and all of these lessons have something to offer me. I am enjoying the course.


Poor Jason Segel. I bet it affects your self-esteem when 20 people leave the room because your private parts got screen time. Hope you didn't tell him about it. :D


TL;DR Less is more. Make sure you show a penis in your movie, but only give it just enough screen time.

Kathy M.

I heard that when they tested The Book of Mormon the writers waited until people left in a huff, then they knew it was just right. I thought the penis scene in Forgetting Sarah was absolutely charming and sweet. It illustrated the naked vulnerability we have when we profess our love. The waking erection in 40 Year old Virgin was a great visual for that characters unique situation. Hey.... why write dialog, just let the penis do the talking : )