Not too long ago I was given a project to cut and it came with a producer that I hadn’t worked with before.  They came in to my bay, handed me the script and told me generally what the piece was about.  Then they left and I got to work.

But then later, partway through the cut, they came back and asked to see my progress.  O…K…  Well, I don’t normally show something part way through…not on short form 90 second spots anyway.  But…OK.  So they watched, liked what I had done, and left. So, I got back to my cut.

Then a few minutes later they came back and said that they didn’t think that one shot worked, and wanted me to find another. Then proceeded to sit down while I looked for the shot.  And they stayed there after I found a replacement and continued to edit.  They were watching me edit.  My ROUGH CUT.

To say this unnerved me is an understatement.  To have someone sit there (who isn’t an assistant editor looking to learn how to edit…and see my thought process…which I am TOTALLY cool with)…someone who is in charge of the project, is distracting. Because they’ll see me try something, and it won’t look good. And they will tell me that.  Well, after I see it, I KNOW it won’t be good, because I see it too.  It happened more than once.  “Are you sure about that? I don’t know if that will look right.”  “Wait, do you have a shot of this?  How about that?  Anything from the next day?”

And not only footage suggestions, but when to cut.  “How about cutting out a hair sooner? This feels like it is on screen too long.” They are behind me (or beside me at the desk) basically driving the cut. Trying to give me instant feedback to my initial cut.

This is wrong.

The rough cut phase is my time to play around and see what works.  My time to look at the footage, toss things on the timeline and see if they work, or if they don’t work.  To see if things cut a certain way looks right, or not.  This is the phase when we are basically feeling our way through the cut like a blind person down an unfamiliar hallway.  We need to find out what is there, and how to get around it.  I need to try several things before I get what I like. To have the producer there during this phase is just plain wrong.  They need to give me the time to create what I think is good.  Or, at least, the beginning of something I think is good.  They will get their time to give me feedback.  They will get a LOT of time to give me feedback.  But the rough cut is my time.

Sure, they can hang around after giving me notes and watch as I change things to their liking. That’s fine. Because I am addressing THEIR notes…their thoughts. While I would prefer to decipher their notes myself and see what works, and tweak things just right (because I might need to do large changes to the music) on my own. But, if they stay while I do this…I’m used to that.

So…how to get this producer out of my bay while I finish my rough cut? I was gentle, tactful, but straight with them. “Hey, if you don’t mind, I’d like to do the rough cut on my own. Because I tend to make try a lot of things and make a lot of mistakes, and I don’t want you to see my mistakes. I want you to see my successes. I want you to watch this spot when it is all assembled, and to my liking.  So that you can see a complete piece.  And then I will welcome you into my bay while we change things to your liking.  Cool?”

And they were cool with that. And apologized for being there. This was an important project for them, and one of the first they were producing on their own, and they  just wanted to make sure it was good.  Didn’t realize they were stepping on my toes.

And I have had more experienced producers in my bay during the rough cut phase. But they were smart enough to not pay attention to me or the cut until I was ready to show them. They know that we are trying out several things and that most won’t work.  They tend to bury themselves in email or the internet or writing, and only look up when I ask, “are you ready to see what I’ve got?”