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Old July 30th, 2008, 09:23 PM   #1
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Questions about script / screenplay / storyboard / editing


I've read tons of books starting with how to write a good screenplay, then got into the full extent of the technical side of it, and all the way up to how to edit your story into a final project. Since, I have no experience on a real set, I'd like to tie my ever growing book knowledge to reality.

From what I've seen, it looks like the editor of a movie has a lot of power over several aspects of the end result. Based on his cuts, the movie can have so many different layers, beats, moods, suspense, feelings, etc. It seems like 10 editors would produce 10 different results if they were handed the same footage.

Anyway, I'd like to know how an editor can get so creative and turn a story upside down when all he/she got is a shot list and a storyboard to work with? To my understanding, a storyboard helps to identify the required shots and also serves as a foundation for the editor. I'm assuming someone in power like the director or maybe even the producer put it together (storyboard) and that's what they want no question asked. I guess it doesn't leave too much room to experiment or get too creative unless the storyboard isn't very detailed and has a lot of improvisation.

If someone here works in the field and have some time to shed a little bit of light on this, I would really appreciate.

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Old July 30th, 2008, 11:13 PM   #2
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Currently taking a 6-week editing class, and I'm really coming to appreciate how powerful the editing is in making a movie. It can completely overpower any and all efforts to organize the movie that came before. I'm also realizing when a movie is "not working", we are usually talking about the editing.

Our first class exercise was to cut together a simple scene from a movie. We broke into 7 teams and received the exact same footage. Every team came up with a completely different final cut. By playing with different timings, rhythms, cutaways, dialog, sounds, and music we were able to completely changed the focus of the scene and the dynamics of the character's relationships. It was all very simple stuff, selecting a moment here, using a certain reaction there, letting a video play just a little longer, omitting other shots or dialog. In fact, the final cut of the scene by the real editor of the movie was also completely different from anything we came up with.

Our second exercise has been to work on scenes of a movie currently in production. Some of the actors didn't have such great performances, or we were missing some coverage like some cutaways and reaction shots. So it's been very interesting having to work around these issues to create performances that never existed. My current scene is absolutely ridiculous as I have one character with no verbal response whatsoever, and the only shots I have of her are a full closeup looking soulfully at the camera. So I've had to cull every blink, mouth twitch, sigh, and head movement, to create a performance that just isn't there. It's been a PITA, but I did it!

Another scene that I'm proud of is one where the DP shot all kinds of crazy things, the back of people's heads, actor's pacing back and forth across the screen, artsy shots where the characters are in/out of the shot exactly when the most interesting part is happening. Of course it felt like he omitted the important parts, like reaction shots, cutaways, and steady shots of the actors saying the lines. But I was able to build a satisfying scene with a great through line that built up very nicely, nailed the emotional high point of the scene then slowly ebb to a close. Quite a thrilling & satisfying adventure to put it all together and create something interesting to watch.

More than anything else, the editing class has really taught me what's important to shoot in production. It's one thing to say (while in production) that you need this or that shot, a wide, close up, over the shoulder etc. Truthfully, I think many people in production hear it, but just don't get it. But when you're given the footage in the editing suite and you're trying to make the scene work all of a sudden it's crystal clear what shots you need ... also by inference, what shots you really, really, don't need.

Some things I will never, ever do from now on:
a. Let the actors pace
b. Let the DP shoot the back of an actors head
c. Let the DP get all artsy before we have the stock shots for the scene

It sounds really simple, and I "knew" it before, but after having to edit footage like this, it's crystal clear.
"Ultimately, the most extraordinary thing, in a frame, is a human being." - Martin Scorsese
Michael Wisniewski is offline   Reply With Quote
Old July 31st, 2008, 02:14 AM   #3
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Walk into the local movie rental store.

Look around.

Of the THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of movies in there I bet 50 of them are great. Another hundred or so are pretty darn good. Maybe a few hundred more are tolerable.

The rest are what happens when even knowledgable working professionals try and yet FAIL miserably to win the movie making game.

Movie making is the biggest mirage on the planet - precisely because it LOOKS so effortless when it's actually done well.

Moviemaking is a lot of things. Easy, is NEVER one of them.

It's VICIOUSLY difficult - and you know what? The job everyone seems to want is the job of Director - the job where you have ALL final responsibility for the results of the work of all the legions of people on the cast and crew in achieving these amazingly difficult things exceptionally well.

IMO most people want to achieve their IMAGE of being a director. But hardly ever have a CLUE as to the massive work and bone-crushing responsibility involved.

Bill Davis is offline   Reply With Quote
Old July 31st, 2008, 05:09 AM   #4
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Unfortunately editors don't always get what's in the storyboard, actors come up with interesting things or have flaws or something in the real world interferes with the illusion.

The Editor doesn't turn the story itself up side down, if they do there's something wrong with the script and the story in the first place. However, it's not uncommon that script flaws have been carried forward or matrial just didn't get shot e.g. "The Conversation".

The editing is more like another re-write in which the strongest material is used to tell the story.

However, the Editor doesn't have the final cut either the director or more commonly the producers or the the studio has that. There is loads of discussion (or even arguments) between the interested parties, so the editor isn't acting alone.

I don't think you should ever regard shots as "stock", it sounds just as bland as GVs (general views), I suppose you call them as establishing shots, but they can just be exposition without adding anything dramatically. News people often called them wallpaper shots - just shots for voice over.

Backs of heads can be extremely powerful, so never say never, it's how you use them and where they fit the story beat of the story.

Let the actors pace if they're on the pace, top actors can have extremely sharp timing and they'll be setting the pace in any longer running shots with interaction between characters.
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