Writer vs Editor Mindset


Over the last few months I have been doing quite a bit of research into Stanley Kubrick.

Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick

I have been working my way through his filmography. One of the things that stands out to me about Kubrick’s career is the fact that he never wrote an original screenplay and instead only adapted existing material. In an interview with Kubrick he stated how he had a great deal of respect for writers of original material because it was something he felt he could never do.

I found this interesting post on Quora asking the question”Why did Kubrick never write an original screenplay?”

The answer given described how filmmakers tend to fall into one of two categories:

  1. The writer mindset
  2. The editor mindset

The writer draws his/her strength from creating something from scratch. This type of person will likely have little problem getting their ideas down on paper but may struggle to condense them down into presentable and cohesive story. This person is probably more right brained.

The editor on the other hand will have a hard time creating from scratch because they are overly analytical and expect perfection the first time around. However, when given a starting point to work from they will be able to transform it or improve the original material using their critical thinking skills.

Quentin Tarantino is described as having the writer’s mindset while Stanley Kubrick as having the editor’s mindset. This makes total sense and explains each filmmakers approach to their work. Tarantino creating original work from scratch and Kubrick adapting pre-existing material.

I personally found this distinction to be really interesting and helpful. I would 100% consider myself as having the editor mindset but never really thought about it in this way until now.

Once you know what category you fall into as a filmmaker you can focus on your strength. This doesn’t mean that editor types can’t write anything original but I do think it’s helpful to be aware that this might not be their strength. Having a knowledge of this distinction also means that you can collaborate more successfully and learn from other filmmakers who may fall into the opposite category.

Which one are you? A writer type? An editor type? Or a little bit of both?

Also published on Medium.