September 22, 2014
Assignments for Next Week
Handouts for this Week
Lesson for This Week
The material that comes from the set is malleable. Ideas which work well on paper (and in the director's mind) are often less successful in the context of the completed footage. If the Rule of Threes has taught us anything it is that a given idea, image or character will change depending on what comes before and after it. Once a scene is completed, it must be viewed in the context of the entire film. So we need to be careful as to what each element says to us.
Two weeks ago we talked about the individual shot and its placement within a scene. Last week we saw how an individual scene can be structured and talked about the construction of beats within a scene and how they play off of each other.. Tonight we will discuss the individual scene and its placement within a sequence of shots. We will also discuss some of the tools that an editor has at his or her disposal to control these changes.
Throughout the beginning weeks of this semester we've been looking at how the arrangement of shots effects their perception (the infamous Rule of Threes). In looking at the classroom scene in HEATHERS last week we also saw the power of arranging and rearranging individual scenes.
Tonight, we will take a look at a problem, and a series of solutions, involving the arrangement of an entire sequence of scenes from the movie JUST LOOKING (this link is to the Sony Classics site, the picture to the left links to the Internet Movie Database listing, like nearly all of the poster images I use on the site) which, I cut for Sony and director Jason Alexander. In it, Lenny needs to say goodbye to his Uncle Phil before he leaves to go back to his home in the Bronx. The problem, in a nutshell, was that there were too many goodbye scenes in the film -- he said goodbye to his uncle Phil, to his friends, to Hedy, and he also had a long reconciliation scene with his stepfather which tied up the loose ends in that subplot. How could we minimize the repetitive feel of the goodbyes? Which moments were absolutely necessary? Which could be cut out?
There were also issues of believability. Lenny must forgive the two people -- Phil and Hedy -- who have disappointed him the most. The hurt is real. How can he rise above it and learn to forgive? And that is really his true arc in the film -- he starts off wanting to see two people make love, and he learns that love is really about something much different than the physcial act of love.
You must deal with these issues in most projects that you work on. Script sequences which seemed logical on the page, don't play the same way. Sometimes entire lines or scenes can be summed up in a single look from a character. Sometimes, a scene which had an intellectual purpose, is too redundant emotionally. And, often, a scene doesn't give the feeling or information that the writer had hoped it would. Solving these issues creatively, within the context of the rest of the film, is one of the greatest challenges (and joys) of editing.
I wanted to pass along an interesting quote from Richard Chew, about the editing of THE NEW WORLD for Terrence Malick. He did a preliminary cut on Xpress DV, then passed sequences along to other editors for refining. Malick also worked on an Avid to screen and select dailies. This quote gives a sense of how some editors work to facilitate communication between departments. [The full article is viewable on the Avid web site]
[Chew] explains, “Normally I use Locators on the timeline to reference where there’s a line replacement or where music or a sound effect would start. But we devised a system where Terry would use color-coded green Locators to indicate the sections of takes he liked. He doesn’t care for computers, but with this system, he'd just sit at the Avid [Xpress Pro] and punch away on a single key of the keyboard. If he really liked something, he’d just keep on punching until the green dots got so dense that the timeline looked black. It got to be a joke between us editors: ‘I guess Terry really liked that - it got into the black!’”
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Last Modified - October 15, 2013