I don't want to edit your film for you.


The goal: to Get your film to start working on cut #3, not cut #30.

I've seen it time after time: documentary filmmakers, bound by limited budgets, take on the editing themselves. They struggle for months, going through dozens of versions and multiple brutal rounds of feedback, and still can't seem to get their films to work.

Finally, demoralized and burned out, they give up and hire a "rescue editor," literally handing over their baby to someone else – who throws away nearly all their work and starts from scratch.

I used to be one of those rescue editors. Until I thought, what if there was a better way?

What if, instead of putting filmmakers through this torture, we acknowledged the reality that most are operating within a culture of scarcity and have no choice but to edit their own films? Sure, they'd love to hire a professional editor – but who has the money for that?

So given that reality, how about if there was a way to set them up to edit their films successfully from the word go, and skip all the months of wheel spinning and wasted effort? 

That's why I created Elevate Your Editing: to teach independent filmmakers like you all the ins and outs of how I work and think as a professional editor so that you don't make so many technical or creative missteps. So that you pinpoint the right story and structure from the start.

Elevate Your Editing is meant for you if you're:

  • A documentary filmmaker or videojournalist who wears all the hats (you produce, shoot, edit...)
  • An independent video producer who can't afford to hire someone else to edit
  • An independent filmmaker who identifies as a person of color, indigenous, or non-binary and you need to maintain ownership over your story
  • An accidental or part-time filmmaker wondering what you've gotten yourself into
  • An aspiring documentary or non-fiction editor craving mentorship
  • A bedroom or dining room table editor

The story you're telling deserves to be heard. So it’s important to you to learn to edit in a way that elevates your material to its highest potential – whether you're making mini-docs, full-length feature docs, or doc-style marketing videos.

Your goal is to get your film into festivals; activate a movement, support its growth, and maintain its momentum; please your clients; or simply satisfy your creative curiosity.

Your determination is large, but your budget not so much. So you shoot, produce, direct, and edit nearly everything yourself.

  • But sometimes you’re overwhelmed by all that footage.
  • You struggle with story structure and style.
  • Your brain hurts just trying to figure out the edit software.
  • Negative feedback to your edit has shaken your confidence.
  • No matter what you do, your film just doesn’t seem to flow.
  • Or – you're happy with your work, but you want to take the quality up a notch.

the only eligibility requirement is that you want to be here. and that you want to edit your documentary on your own terms.

The purpose of Elevate Your Editing is to help you edit your documentary on your own.

Through free content (for example, in my weekly newsletter, my blog and Instagram), as well as paid courses, workshops, and coaching, my vision is to provide you the technical and creative knowledge and support you need to get past all the hurdles and bring your vision to life – especially if you don't have a huge post-production budget.

Don't let another day go by where you don't make progress on your edit.

Maybe you're stuck on some technical question; or you aren't sure what to do next to build your story; or you can't seem to make your edit flow.

My goal is to create a space that's free of newbie shaming and mansplaining.

That feeling of inadequacy that you can't shake? It's completely normal. I'm talking about that voice of self-doubt that says, "OMG this film is never going to come together!"

That worry that you won't be able to transform what you shot into something watchable, let alone compelling – to your audience, festival programmers, funders, your client, or even just random strangers on the internet who happen to stumble upon it.

I've been professionally editing for well over a decade, and I still get that feeling of dread on nearly every project. The trick is to trust that you're on the right path, even if you can't see the summit.

The right support can help you get there.

about me

a picture of Leslie Atkins
I've worked as an editor in the non-fiction & documentary film industry since 2005.

I specialize in investigative and observational films for non-fiction television, though I've done mini-docs, marketing videos, and a winning Kickstarter campaign video along the way.

My work has appeared on PBS, Al Jazeera, National Geographic, New York Times Op-Docs, Topic, Smithsonian Channel, History Channel, Animal Planet, among other TV networks – including several series that have been honored with multiple Emmy and Peabody awards. You can see that work over at unspokenpost.com.

There are plenty of editors that can punch the keys and make the pictures work, but precious few, like Leslie, who really understand the craft of literate filmmaking, deftly turning complex ideas into compelling narrative. She gets it.

Rick Young 

Series Producer, PBS FRONTLINE

I'm also a bit scrappy. And something of an efficiency ninja.

I've learned how to make documentaries work even when the raw materials are less than ideal, giving wings to many films that weren't taking flight – by re-structuring, re-shaping, and unearthing unused gems that unlocked the story.

I've had to deliver lots of films under do-or-die broadcast deadlines, so I know what kind of organization, techniques, and workflow planning it takes to speed up the edit process while at the same time preventing edit meltdown.

I can teach you the same tricks that it took me years to learn, develop, and refine – even if it just means helping you finish your project faster and with less hassle and stress.

But it was my experience as a "rescue editor" – coming in, restructuring, and re-cutting independent filmmakers' films after they'd already labored on them for months – that made me to want to teach, rather than takeover.

Whatever your reason for making your documentary film or video, I'm here to help you get it to the finish line.

I don't want you to give up until your project is as good as it can be. And I don't want you to feel like you have to spend thousands of dollars on hiring a professional editor, either.

My goal is to help you achieve a sense of control over the whole editing process – or at least make it a whole lot less painful – whether your project is a 5-minute mini-doc or the most daunting feature-length documentary film.

And when your film feels like it has completely lost its way, I want you to be able to self-diagnose what's wrong and turn it into something you're proud of.

Want to become the editor your film needs you to be?

Don't spend another day in edit overwhelm. Sign up and I'll send you a weekly email with inspiration, creative guidance, and technical tricks of the trade to help you stay motivated and make your edit amazing. Plus you'll be first to know about upcoming workshops and my documentary editing courses + coaching.

I had been saving a few of your newsletters to read with tea one of these days and finally settled down with them... I was feeling extremely 'seen' and reassured, less alone... You've helped me so so so much. Reading your revelation that you also have unfinished projects that haunt you made me feel so much more valid as a filmmaker. We're so lucky we get to work with you!

Documentary filmmaker and multimedia journalist Natasha Pizzey

Natasha Pizzey

Documentary Filmmaker and Multimedia Journalist