Thursday, June 04, 2009

Cutting scenes

I mentioned recently somewhere (might have been this blog, might have been an email to someone - it all becomes a blur) that I like cutting abruptly between scenes. I take the principle of "enter late-exit early" as far as I can. And like to contrast scenes where possible.

This relates to the idea of audience "contribution", which is to say that you have to let the viewer / reader / whatever, fill in the gaps. You make a point of not showing everything. That's what subtext is about - the audience interprets what they hear. Sometimes you leave out entire characters (like "She who must be obeyed" from the Rumpole stories - the main character's wife who never appears). The audience creates the character in their own heads.

By entering late and exiting early you make the audience construct what came before and after in their heads - and that pulls them in tighter to the story. They are no longer a spectator, they are a co-creator. Of course it is a balancing act, and different people can create to different degrees of ability which is why people appreciate different things and different types of storytelling.

Although I've always done the scene-cutting thing fairly naturally, it was this article that showed I was on the right track. I tend to be analytical and try to reduce principles to their fundamentals. So if someone says "subtext" and someone else says "enter late-exit early", I do some thinking and ask questions like "are these things related?" and "what's actually going on here?" and then you get something interesting like the commonalities between those principles.

Thenyou test your theory by applying it to other aspects of screenwriting and say "well, does this principle of leaving stuff out so the audience puts it in apply to any other part?" And you might arbitrarily choose "Sound", are there any examples where sound is deliberately left out and the audience puts it in? Certainly. I've certainly seen one film where the sound of someone screaming was deliberately omitted (cinematically justified by having them behind glass). And I know I put that scream in.

And so on.

Anyway I was reading a posting on the Artful Writer - interesting forums though very firmly Hollywood oriented - where someone was discussing montages and someone else pops explaining that Sergei Eisenstein (Director, Battleship Potemkin) had analysed and categorised montages in the 20s.

One of his fundamental principles was that the cutting between images could be used to create conflict and that, of course, is the essence of drama. And you only need to watch Battleship Potemkin to see that theory in practice. He wasn't wrong. And it's another aspect to how as a writer we should consider how our scenes are cut, individually and one to the next.

One of the posters on Artful Writer didn't think that understanding how to edit sequences for the best emotional response was relevant to a writer - that's the editor's job isn't it?

It's relevant because our scripts have to make an impact on the reader (and ultimately the viewer). If we can achieve an Eisenstienian (as opposed to Einsteinium which is a radioactive transuranic element) quality in our writing then we will have a more powerful emotional effect on the reader, and hence stand a far better chance of going further and doing better.

Which has to be a good thing.

In other news

The Boy will be on Bamzooki! Excellent. Apparently they were very impressed with him. (Most people are.) The new series has a new style which requires them to be better in front of the camera, depending on what happens he could be there for just a day or possibly five days. Filming in September.

The Daughter received her Cosplay that she ordered from Hong Kong. Everyone heaves a sigh of relief. They required detailed measurements and it's really well-made. Of course, HK is where you can get a proper tailored suit in 24 hours so we shouldn't be too surprised but considering we ordered it less than two weeks ago, we're impressed. It looks like this.

What's on the turntable? "I could give you (a mirror)" by the Eurythmics from "Sweet Dreams"

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