You’ll be very familiar with the poetry film because you’ll have worked on it for a long time. There are as many different ways to approach editing a poetry film as there are to edit a poem. You might sit with it for a while, you might tackle it head on.
Here is just one editing checklist.
The first step is to look at the different elements that make up the final piece – you could call this technical editing. By looking critically at each element, you are not distracted by the whole.
Sound – Listening to the sound with your eyes closed enables you to focus on it.
Is there anything distracting?
Rustle of pages?
Is the sound balanced?
Can you hear the words?
Is the music too loud?
Visuals – Concentrate on the visuals (with the sound off).
Look around the edges of the screen to see if anything is distracting.
Are there any unsteady visuals that need to be removed (unless deliberately filming in that way)?
Do the lines of movement flow in the right direction?
Does anything ‘jar’ in places you don’t want it to?
Does the camera movement work?
Is the zooming smooth?
Is the panning smooth?
Is there too much movement – pans, zooms, transitions?
Voice and text editing – concentrate on the text of the poem
Are any words redundant because they are obvious from the imagery?
If the poem is quite dense should the visuals be redacted? Or vice versa?
Is the pacing of the voice right?
Are there any gaps that should be reduced?
Do they lead seamlessly from one clip to the next?
Do any cross dissolves take up footage that you didn’t want to use?
Do they match compositions within the frame?
Do they serve the film?
Are there too many different types of transition?
Is it the right transition at the right time?
Is any camera movement clashing with a transition?
With the sound on – do any of the transitions clash with the sound? (Sometimes the viewer can miss a word at this point.)
Words on screen – Concentrate on any words on the screen, again, with the sound off.
Is there the right amount of time between lines appearing?
Are the words on the screen for long enough?
Are any further textual edits needed?
Do you need the ands and full stops?
Overall – Now look at the whole thing again.
Does it work?
Would you do anything differently?
Editing a poetry film is not unlike editing a poem on the page. It takes time, practice and feedback.