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The Creative Producing students recently began a brand new class: post-production.

Only half a semester long, the post-production course is the first time we Creative Producing students are being offered the opportunity to be immersed in what is an absolutely crucial aspect of the filmmaking process.  It’s a common saying on film sets that “you can fix anything in post,” but what does this really mean?  As a producer, how do we know when this actually applies and what the costs associated with post-production work are?  We Creative Producing students need to know enough about the ins and outs of post-production to successfully lead a team through the process, presumably with limited resources.  And as it’s almost time for us to think about moving forward with our own thesis projects, a class like this can take on a whole new meaning for us.

Fortunately for us, our post-production professor, David Tarleton, is not only an experienced film and video industry veteran, he’s also an excellent educator.  In the past few weeks of class he’s taken us step-by-step through the basics of the editing process, making sure that we have the tools to move forward one step at a time, while also taking time in class to answer complex questions for those already familiar with the process.

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For our first assignment, we were dropped directly into an editing project to get a real experiential sense of the post-production process and to get a better sense of what editors do in their work.  (As Creative Producing students, we’re not taught at Columbia to edit at an advanced level – it’s expected that in our professional work, we’re going to work with editors who are able to do this themselves – but we are given enough exposure to the process to understand what it is like).

Professor Tarleton gave us 15 minutes worth of takes from an episode of the classic television series “Gunsmoke.”  Even though the scene we were cutting was originally created in 1957, we were told that we could tell whatever version of the story we wanted to using the footage we were given (I chose to cut a character and eliminate much of the run-up to the big fight scene, for example).  Having this freedom not only made the assignment more fun, but also reflected what the real-life editing process is like.  An editor can only work with the footage he is given, and it’s important to be ready to make the best film you are able to with what you actually have, even if the footage has turned out differently than you intended.

Needless to say, in the end it was a pretty fun assignment, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the class.  Where else would I be able to re-cut a classic Western television sequence my own way?