Cereal is Dope Outtakes and the secret to creating anything

They say good writing is all about ruthless editing. You could argue that the same is true of any creative art. There’s always the impulse to include everything and the kitchen sink. By nature we are creatures of ego, possessive of every fragment of thought, every image we put out there. But it is the ability to pare down — to take out the distractions and the self-indulgences in order to focus on the heart of the story — that separates the amateur from the artist.

I used to write a lot of poetry back in college. The best editor I ever had was a fellow student who made me re-write one poem at least a half-dozen times, always with the mantra “if you don’t need it – get rid of it”.

Eventually the real poem emerged from the original masturbatory pages I had submitted. The work had transformed and what remained was just the essence: the unfocused language had become crisp, the lines consistently short, the unnecessary ideas removed.

Ironically, this editor had great difficulty following his own advice. Instead of keeping his own poetry tight, he was forever filling notebooks with epic verse about factory workers – their drug habits and trashy women, their fucked up relationships with their fathers and so on. It was colorful stuff for sure but it was impossible not to lose the plot.

Discerning what works from what doesn’t in the context of your own project is a tricky task. It’s one thing to say “if you don’t need it, get rid of it” and quite another to realize what it means for your finished project to need or not need something, let alone having the balls to cut up your work.

Editing video
As with poetry, video moves according to a rhythm and has to be economical to be effective. There is no way to skim a video so if one begins to amble, most people would simply turn it off… If your video becomes monotonous or unfocused — it is doomed.

The video editing workflow pretty much goes like this:

  1. Can this video be cut shorter?
    • If yes, shorten.
    • If not (really?), you’re done!
  2. Is shortened cut worse than previous cut?
    • If not, go back to Question 1.
    • If yes (unlikely), go back to previous cut.

      An example of this would be the 4-minute cut of Bodega that ran on The Daily Reel originally. The pacing may have been nicer for short attention spans but too much was lost which would have been enjoyed by those who had committed their attention. Our preferred 6 and a half minute cut may have broken a rule of viral media by being over five minutes but this version of the video has been a slow-burner for us, with a cult following that has grown and now perhaps tipped with accolades at film festivals and an appearance last week on Digg’s homepage.

There’s a certain zen aspect to it all… Your video should be as short as it can be – but not a second shorter!

Editing may be the most important step in a video’s creation. And I am just beginning to understand that I need to approach video the same way I learned to approach writing years back.

Which baby to kill and which to save!
That’s why when Cas sent us the clip reels for Cereal is Dope — nearly 40 minutes of us improvising about breakfast cereal — I wondered how he’d get this thing down to 5 minutes when about half of it seemed really funny to me. It took Cas a while to find his path but he really didn’t have much of a choice after all. He needed everything he could get with us setting up why we love cereal, to provide the video with structure so it wasn’t a bunch of floating jokes.

One fan told me he could have watched 30 minutes of us talking smack about cereal. As someone who did watch that much and enjoyed it, I get what he’s saying… But the fact is it wouldn’t have been nearly as good an end-result. A great video is more than a string of disconnected jokes – a great video tells a story.

After we posted Cereal is Dope, I was looking through the original clip reels to pick the best of the outtakes. Like my college editor, unable to cut down his own work even though he knew better, I wanted to run it all! Any little segment that gave me a chuckle was worth running .. Before I knew it, I had cut up nearly 20 clips.

The thing is most of them were just so-so. For most of them there was a good reason they were nowhere near the final cut of Cereal is Dope. Cas and then Dallas talked some sense into me. It doesn’t matter if a few fans think they want to see all your footage… You have to know better.

Not everything has to be perfect but if a good chunk of what you’re broadcasting to the world sucks then “you’re doing bad shit” like Kellogg’s.

So with that in mind we dare instead to pick just the best of the unused clips. We end up with six in total for your enjoyment. Only a half-dozen that want to be calling you “cousin”.

Re-watch the original “Cereal is Dope”, in case ya forgot.

9 Responses to Cereal is Dope Outtakes and the secret to creating anything
  1. dallas

    Nice write up Raf, and nice cut.

  2. khal

    word it makes more sense for you to do it that way.

    sorry for trying to steer you the wrong way. when i put out that bootleg iC DVD box set, i’m gonna throw all the clips on there. HA HA HA! MO MONEY MO MONEY!

  3. The Assimilated Negro

    nice post. love this examination of process stuff. good work. both process and and final result.

  4. Jay Solis

    CEREAL KEG!!!!


  5. midnightheory

    true indeed rafi, clear, concise, lean something like some Kashi twigs and berries. dig the piece, and that’s the best picture of a tree ever, yo.

  6. Dan Love


    Nice write up of the editing process. Thought your poem was beautiful: I’m going to read it to some of my classes on Monday. From the heady heights of internet stardom to a small classroom on the outskirts of Bristol. Ubiquitous indeed…



  7. Alexis

    I’m only 14, so my mom doesn’t like some of the stuff you guys say, but you’re so funny!

  8. Patrick Sullivan Jr.

    Less words? My kinda people.

    -Patrick Sullivan Jr.
    theEditweapon…emphasis on edit.

  9. midnightheory

    true indeed rafi, clear, concise, lean something like some Kashi twigs and berries. dig the piece, and that's the best picture of a tree ever, yo.