Unintended Consequences

The law of unintended consequences has been the one constant in the whole digital revolution. We thought digital tools would give us our lives back and make the job easier. They made it harder. We thought it would take away the drudgery. It made assistant’s lives much more tedious. We thought it would make post production cheaper. It made it better, but more expensive. We thought new tools wouldn’t change the artistic qualities of our work. They did.

We weren’t so bad at predicting the technical future — it isn’t that hard to see what the effects of faster processors and bigger hard drives will be. But we really haven’t had much luck at predicting the social effects of this transition.

Today, the $64,000 question is how the democratization of our tools is going to affect us.

The argument goes like this: Now that you can edit on a laptop, it’s easier to gain access to the tools, easier to learn the job, and more people are going to do it. Editing is now widely understood to be critical to the filmmaking process, and partly because of Apple’s fantastic marketing, editing has become cool. That too is bringing people into the field. All of this means more competition.

The counter-argument is that quality always wins. Yes, anybody can learn to be a button pusher, but that doesn’t make him or her an editor. If you’ve looked at even a few student films you know this very well. And even if the size of the workforce is growing, the number of jobs is expanding, too — there’s more content out there everyday, and all of it needs to be edited.

Another concern is that editing work will move to foreign countries where wages are lower. You ship or or ftp the dailies overseas, you get cut material back. The counter-argument is that editing is a private, collaborative task and can only be done when director, producer and editor are near each other. Furthermore, piracy is a big issue. No serious filmmaker is going to trust a long distance editing arrangement.

So are our jobs safe these days? And if they’re not, what can we do about it? Most important, how do we improve the accuracy of our predictions? If we can’t see the future, we can’t prepare for it.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Editors Guild, Quality of Life, Workflow

3 Comments on “Unintended Consequences”

  1. Liam Says:

    My thought is if you do a good job, your job is never at risk. There are definitely no free rides etc.

  2. christopher Says:

    i would expect that the overall skill level of editing will rise as well. as amateurs get better and the basics of editing become common knowledge the edge will be a better understanding and manipulation of the language of image flow, not the assemblage of it.

  3. Scott Says:

    I think that as editing, graphic design and animation continue to come together, etc….That there is the potential for those skill sets to get farmed out piece meal, much like effects work is done in the industry. I’m thinking of mostly TV instances here ike show opens, bumpers, animation packages that incorporate live footage, etc.. But as for storytelling, performace shaping, film editorial, the collaborative process will require the work to stay close by the film maker.


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