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How to Edit Home Alone

How to Edit OTE Home Alone

We list O.T.E. Home Alone as a beginner project because of the footage’s characteristics; all the scenes have two or less characters, there are not an overwhelming amount of camera angles, and there are not a lot of special effects or sound design elements. Still, OTE should not be thought of as simple. 

Putting together a scene with little coverage can also be difficult. As can deciding what order to put the scenes in. Let's drill down into how to address those challenges.

Of the Earth Cover Photo

Project Summary

OTE stands for Of The Earth. According to director Jacob Motz, the film’s world was inspired by The Lord of the Flies. All the adults have died from a mysterious disease. The kids were spared by some miracle, but now they must fend for themselves. The younger kids are particularly vulnerable to the teenagers. It’s a dangerous time to be young and alone. 

Scene: 1 Kid In the Car

Your goal in scene 1 is to get Mikey (the young kid) out of the car and into the house as fast as possible. The purpose of this scene is basically to show that there are no adults around (why else would a kid be in a car by himself?), and to show the film's setting.

Don't dwell on this scene. Get in, get out. You can compress some time by cutting out the amount of steps he takes getting to the door. If you had another shot of the exterior of the house an argument can even be made to remove this scene all together.

However, some editors really try to make a meal out of the scene by adding jump cuts because they feel there isn't enough going on. Good editors always try to milk the most out of a scene. While a version with jump cuts might make a good alternate, it is unlikely to make the final cut because well, there just isn't enough going on

Our advice is to not force a moment where there isn't one.  

Scene Order

Perhaps the biggest lesson from the OTE project the chance to practice reordering scenes. This means that the editor really needs to “track” a story line. The first scene to consider moving is when Mikey goes to bed. Which of these sequences is more interesting to you? 

Scenario #1

  • Mikey gets out of the car.
  • Goes to bed.
  • Makes breakfast.
  • Plays in the house.
  • Talks to Will.

Scenario #2

  • Mikey gets out of the car.
  • Makes breakfast.
  • Plays in the house.
  • Talks to Will.
  • Goes to bed.


In scenario #1 Mikey’s first day is really short. He feels lonely and scared at night. Will comes by the next day offering him to go away. Mikey thinks for a short moment and agrees to follow Will. 

Scenario 2

In scenario #2 Mikey's first day is really long. He has the conversation with Will. Mikey then thinks about this conversation all night. He will not talk to Will again until day 2.

Both of these scenarios are good options. The important lesson for you is that as the editor you need to think about the order of the scenes as you're assembling the project. Always start with the version the script dictates.   

Sound Work At Night

There is one sound effect that is important when Mikey goes to bed. As Mikey finally settles down to fall asleep we need to hear one scary animal sound outside (download this coyote sound). This subtle touch tells us so much about how scary the situation Mikey is in.


EditStock is not a site that gives detailed sound and vfx notes. We concentrate on editing and storytelling notes. Here, the editor adds a lot to the story with this subtle sound. We've created a small, free sound effects library for you at

Jump Cuts For Breakfast

A jump cuts happens when there is a cut without the camera angle changing by more than 20 or 30 degrees. To a viewer it looks like the video skipped. 

Editors typically try to make their cuts invisible. However, jump cuts are noticeable. The reason for this is because a jump cut can't happen in real life. Think about it. There is never a time when your eyes see life like this. It's the same reason why dissolves are more noticeable than cuts. Dissolves can happen in real life. 

Why then do we use jump cuts if they are visible? The main reason are: 

  • To cut out the boring parts of a shot.
  • To condense time generally.
  • Because we want our audience to notice the cut (a big scare for example).

Sometimes jump cuts are improved with music, or when they are in sets of three. They are found in flashbacks, horror scenes, and montages. Jump cuts can be studied by themselves for months, but that’s for another lesson. 

Mikey’s breakfast would last an eternity if we let him go through each step of it; getting the cereal, plate, and spoon, plus whatever else he’s doing in that one long static shot. Instead we can condense this scene using jump cuts

Go Back and See the Mother

You need to give Mikey a solid reason, or reminder of a reason that instigates his decision to go on this journey with Will. That reason is the death of Mikey's mother. The original editor of OTE, Hasani Franke added one more shot of Mikey looking at his mom before saying goodbye. This is editing at its best. 


OTE, wile simple at first sight, can be elevated by good editing. We can rearrange the scenes to give each "day" of the character's life more impact, and we can speed up the boring parts using jump cuts.

We recommend you check out how other people have edited this scene in our Cuts Worth Watching Blog.

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