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.

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Topics include: Edit Early and Adjust Accordingly • Start With the Areas of Greatest Concern • Test Your Films to Identify Issues • Test to See How Far You Can Go


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 ...

About the Instructor

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.

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Judd Apatow

Judd Apatow teaches you how to write, direct, produce, and perform comedy for film and television.

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