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Resident Editor
Five Minute Film School:
TUNNEL VISION

by Craig Tollis

March 10, 2007 -- A common pitfall for filmmakers is something called tunnel vision - where you become so focused on one aspect of your work that you stop seeing the big picture, and sometimes don't even see the obvious.

As an editor, I've often caught myself doing this. Editing is so detail oriented, and includes so many elements, that it's easy to become wrapped up in some technical or aesthetic detail and miss other factors.

Other crafts are susceptible too - a writer may focus too much on one character and lose touch with the overall story; a director may become obsessed with one element of a scene to the detriment of others.

The simplest remedy for tunnel vision is to have somebody else look at what you're doing and ask them what they think. Do they see what you see, or does something else leap out?

An editor, for example, may spend a lot of time perfecting an effect or transition only to have the director question something some fundamental about story or picture. It's natural to do because it's hard to see everything, every time and all at once.

Something else to try is to walk away from the project for a while, take a break and come back later. What looked like a disastrous problem yesterday might not seem so bad today, or you might notice something completely different.

Film making is frequently about trade-offs and compromises, so you're often after a balance that anticipates what the audience will find most significant. This is not to say that you should always second-guess yourself or follow somebody else's advice, but it is useful to keep things in perspective - to try to see your work as the audience will.

NOTE: Craig Tollis is an Atlanta-based editor and Filmmaker with ten years of experience. Please send any questions or comments to craig@screenreport.com. Craig will gladly respond.