Over the course of my career I have mostly been employed as a commercial editor.
That is to say, the bulk of my jobs have consisted of non-fiction programming intended for broadcast or cable television. It is a strict, regimented world of air dates, act breaks, precise running times and intensive, but very structured collaboration, with a well defined chain of command.
Since the rise of reality television, the editor’s role has expanded, to the point that the boundaries between producer, writer and editor have all but fallen away. This newfound freedom has resulted in some very satisfying work experiences, and has made vital use of my background in documentary film. In the documentary, an editor distills the material into a storyline, which often does not emerge until well into the post production process, and rarely resembles the producer’s original intent.
Narrative editing is not the same.
While both forms set out to produce entertainment, commercial projects are, for the most part, content delivering information, while narratives strive to deliver illumination.
When I collaborate with a writer/director or producer on such projects, my role as editor is more akin to that of an actor. Style and pace change as needed, to help express a world view conceived by the director, which has been articulated through the writing and production, and which finds it’s final expression during the editing process.
Therefore, what is called for is a deep understanding of human behavior, drama and story structure.