The Art of Revision: How to Make Your Good Film, Great in 6 Steps | Dandan Liu | Skillshare

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The Art of Revision: How to Make Your Good Film, Great in 6 Steps

teacher avatar Dandan Liu, Filmmaker | Contemplative Creative

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Course Intro


    • 2.

      Getting Constructive Feedback


    • 3.

      Strengthening Your Story Spine


    • 4.

      Exposition: Starting on a Strong Note


    • 5.

      Building Momentum


    • 6.

      Enhancing Your Visual Power


    • 7.



    • 8.

      Thank you!


    • 9.

      Before and After Version of "Monburan Micki"


    • 10.

      Exciting Updates


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About This Class

Just finished the first cut of your film?

Before you go ahead and export it, you have one last golden opportunity to harness the maximum amount of power and resonance from your edit. This stage, known as revision, is the most critical process filmmakers use to refine and strengthen their story. Focusing on 3 main things: clarity, direction, and momentum, it is where films transform from being mediocre to being unforgettable.

This class guides you step-by-step in this revision process, used by Academy Award winning directors like Ron Howard, which will help you see your story with fresh eyes and transform its weaknesses into strengths. 


  • How to get constructive feedback
  • What makes a strong story spine: the essential ingredient
  • How to strengthen the clarity, momentum, and direction of your story
  • How to refine your exposition so it engages immediately
  • How to build the power of your imagery
  • And more!


By the end of this course, you will have a clear 6 step roadmap to guide you in strengthening the weak spots of your edit. Used by Academy Award winning directors, this process will take your film to another level, building its power and resonance with audiences. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Dandan Liu

Filmmaker | Contemplative Creative

Top Teacher

Hi there! I'm Dandan, an Emmy award-winning filmmaker and contemplative creative living in Italy.

As a self-taught filmmaker, I love foraging for unique stories around the world that illuminate the interconnections among us. I started making films while on a 4 year journey living in monasteries around the world. One film led to the next, and after persevering for many years, I found myself working full time on film crews and streaming my films on Roku, Apple TV, museums, trains, and airplanes.

My highest work is helping others craft an authentic, creative, and mindful life- your unique work of art. I believe that knowing who you truly are is the foundation for flourishing in every area of life. So, I founded Unravel, a playful journey of self discovery, which has... See full profile

Level: All Levels

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1. Course Intro: You finished filming and editing and now have your first cut. Before you go ahead and export it, you have one last golden opportunity to make sure that you're telling your story in the most powerful, clear, and resonant way. This step is known as revision, and this process is embraced by all filmmakers as the final step where you can transform your film from a good film to an unforgettable one. While you may think you're happy with your first edit, chances are that there are still spots where your story lacks clarity, direction, and momentum. When a story lacks these three elements, it disengages viewers and feels lackluster, no matter how amazing your shots might be. I created this course to guide you in this revision process step by step to see where you can strengthen your story and make your film more power. I also will show some examples of these lessons being applied to my own documentary, which I recently shot about a Japanese female boxer. You've worked so hard to make your film come alive and bring it to where it is now. You do not want to miss this amazing opportunity to make sure that you are extracting the maximum amount of power and resonance from your edit. Let's get started. 2. Getting Constructive Feedback: The first step of a good revision is to show your film to an audience and ask for feedback. Friends and family are fine as long as they are brutally honest with you, which can be really hard for mothers. This step can feel nerve-wracking and make you feel very vulnerable, which is totally normal. But at this stage, it's crucial that you get feedback to understand what your film is communicating and whether that differs from your original conception. First, ask them if there was anything in the story that was unclear. Often when we have been so close to the story, we take a lot of things for granted that need to be explained to an audience who doesn't know the backstory. Note these points of confusion down and see whether you can add these clarifications to your story. Then ask them if there was any part where they felt bored. Note these down as they can be important clues to show you where your story loses momentum and where you need to focus your revision. 3. Strengthening Your Story Spine: The second step to a good revision, is to check to see whether you have a strong story spine throughout your whole film. Now, there are many kinds of films out there, those that are artistic, informational and descriptive. But if you want to make a film that engages viewers from beginning to end and moves them emotionally, a good story spine needs to have conflict. Without conflict or something at stake, it's difficult for a story to build and not remain static. Take a look at all the most powerful films in history, no matter what subject matter, they all have a central conflict. In sports films, the conflict is whether the main character will gain victory. In romantic comedies, is whether love birds will be able to come together and last in the end. Even in quirky films like Little Miss Sunshine, the conflict is whether Olive will be able to make it to the pageant on time. So take a look at your film and see whether the main conflict is clear. Look through your material and see whether there is any additional scene or image that can be added to heighten the stakes or whether your central conflict is modeled with extraneous information that makes it unclear what your main character is fighting for. 4. Exposition: Starting on a Strong Note: The third step to a good revision is to see whether you've started your film at the latest possible point in story. One of the biggest mistakes I've seen in beginner filmmakers is taking too long to set up your film with background, character context, and info. However, when this happens, your story already loses momentum and viewers become bored. What makes a good starting point? Start as close to the conflict as possible. To start as close to the conflict as possible, try starting your film when the character has reached a turning point in his or her life. That'll bring about the conflict. To summarize, if you feel like your story is having a little trouble getting started, take a step back and see whether there's anything in your exposition that can be removed or if it can be removed entirely and start as close to the conflict as possible by starting at the turning point of your character's life. 5. Building Momentum: The fourth step to a good revision is to see whether every shot in your story moves the story forward towards its climax or the big event where the central conflict will be played out. You want all of your scenes to build together and not just be stand alone scenes that don't drive the sum of its parts forward. Now, a lot of people confuse momentum with pacing, thinking that if their story loses momentum, they can build it by increasing the pace of their cuts. However, momentum and pacing are different things. Momentum does not come from the speed of your cuts. Momentum comes from the relationship between one scene and the next, which create a chain reaction throughout the story. If you see that a scene does not fulfill its function, remove it and look at the flow of your story. Try not to be attached, as easy as it is, to some of your favorite scenes. Perhaps you really love an image or a line of dialogue said, if it does not build the momentum of your story, your story is probably better without it. For example, for a documentary shot I made about a Japanese boxer, I love the scene where she is wearing a Kabuki mask boxing in the ring. I love the scene because it symbolically represented one thing she mentioned in her interview, how in her early days, whenever someone would punch her, she would punch back out of anger. However, whenever she did that and boxed from vengeance, she would lose the game. Here's what the sequence looked like with this Kabuki scene in. Sensing that my first edit lacked momentum and direction, I went through the whole edit and saw that this Kabuki scene was one that weakened my story and didn't build my story up to its climax, which was the final match of the boxer. It was really painful to remove the scene as it took a lot of effort to get, but I was really glad I did in the end because it built up the clarity and momentum of my story. As you can see in the next revised example. 6. Enhancing Your Visual Power: The fifth step to a good edit is to remove any redundancies. Since film is primarily a visual medium, you really want to make sure that you are giving space for your visuals to fully express themselves, and not way down the audience with too much talking. For this step, go through your film and see whether any talking repeats what is being shown on screen. If this is the case, try removing the talking and just show the visual and see whether that increases the power of your story. [inaudible]. 7. Bonus : The last step of a good edit is the easiest and it's also the hardest, is to take a break from your film. By now, you've probably seen your film a hundreds of times that you're starting to lose perspective. So take a break. I recommend taking at least two weeks off from looking at your film because when you come back, you'll come back with fresh eyes and a more objective view of what needs to be improved. This period is also valuable because it can give the opportunity for your subconscious creative genius to devise innovative solutions for the problems that your story is facing and make it much better. 8. Thank you!: There you have it. Six steps to effectively revise your film and make it stronger. It's a process I swear by when making all of my films. I've included the before and after version of my short doc on the Japanese boxer so you can see how effective this process can be. I hope that by now, you feel excited to start the revision process and extract every ounce of power from your film, that you've already worked so hard on. But I'm going to be honest with you. Revision can be a frustrating process, as you try and try things, rip your scenes apart, and create masses as you find solutions. But if you come into this process, with an attitude of openness and rediscovering, it makes all the difference. You'll find new ways of telling your story that go far beyond your original conception and help you exponentially grow as a filmmaker. If you have any remaining questions, feel free to ask me on the course discussion page, as I'm here to support you. If you'd like to further your film-making and editing, check out my other courses on my teacher profile page. Thank you so much for taking your time with me and I wish you all the best for your revision journey. 9. Before and After Version of "Monburan Micki": Oh, uh okay, so it'll be full of books that change. Then we have basil put. They thought it like your cue to out Julie said Yunus. A good idea. Taking Eve que one so could ask it it. Oh yeah. All those on you. You set up. We have. But you use you seem first aid. Some of it. No way. Haven't seen at the Who hasn't done this kid. - How many got selected at the convention? Expected? She will tell me about the car. Todo get out so they won't Looks good. This is the kickball. No money could buy. I won't get boxing. She came on to me. Just You know, I think how many? Lucky got to feel that the state Goodnight. The more actively books did not get that. - No way talking like this. What kind of move into my damos have a So they want to sell more. You take do you get? It s a little support. I got you . Who up to she books on another escalators. Then show discomfort because a good kind of shit. Call it, State it. Okay, so there will be no books that works in the other it was how money market. That's a creo that door books out the state taken. I got more. No way. Little somewhat What this thing was here. I need to take Listen, about. That should be that it is in Tokyo talking like on this. Okay? What? That professional shag Her husband, Michael. Ashamed. Find it. That dame us. What? They won't do my day months. So they want to sell more. You taken, Did they? I get it. 10. Exciting Updates: Hi, everyone. I have two exciting updates. The first is that I have created a course map that links all of my film-making and editing courses in sequence. So you can confidently advance as a filmmaker. The second update is that I've started a one-minute newsletter which is curated inspiration and high-value insights on film-making, creativity, and the art of authentic living. Checkout both of these on my course instructor page.