Monday, July 03, 2006

Pre-Lap Please

A friend of mine invited me to watch her new movie in "fine cut". She has about 4 weeks left before she is going to lock picture. The film is a comedy and is playing about 96 minutes long.

Directors can fall in love with their work. Don't. Just like writers learn (or they better learn) to kill their babies, directors need to learn when to get out of a scene, a shot, a moment. There are times when you do need to dwell, but in your first cuts eliminate as much as possible. Once you have a cut that works, if there's something you absolutely love and will feel like a sell-out if you don't include it, put in HALF of it just to see if it plays. Then, dub that down to dvd, call it the director's cut and remove the bit from the final cut of the film. You've had your say. We get it. We just want to watch a movie.

This particular film actually played fairly lean. At 96 minutes it was too long because it lacked a few solid character scenes to establish the emotional backstory of the character (which is not the same as factual backstory). A common thread in the comments after the screening was that folks wanted to know more about the lead character's family background. This speaks directly to a character's emotional backstory. Audiences don't get stuck on the facts too often if the emotional story is working. They also don't look at their watches.

And lastly, audiences are reacting to the beats in the story in real time. Follow the audience's reaction time not the characters in the scene. This means pre-lapping the audio (bringing the audio in before we cut to the speaker) so that we, the audience, can react with the listener hearing the joke/dramatic speech. This will make your cut tighter, the jokes that work will feel lighter "on their feet", and the ones that don't (but that you can't cut for whatever reason) will fly right by. Do not worry about audiences laughing over any dialogue that follows. That's an uptown problem, frankly, and I have no sympathy for you if that's your biggest concern. Comedians don't take the stage and tell a killer joke followed by an unfunny joke. They pace the delivery. In a comedy you want the audience to have so much fun, they want the movie to last longer.

Now go kill some babies and drop me a comment to tell me how it went.

1 comment:

viperteq said...

I just gotta say that you are so knowledgable when it comes to this film stuff. I mean of course you learned a lot of it in school, I presume, but reading your posts it sounds as if you've been making movies your whole entire life. I love it!!! Now what I need you to do is buy a Mac, buy Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro and a camera, wite a nice script, film, edit and print it and then submit it to Sundance. And when you've got all of that done email me so I can buy a Plane ticket and come out and cheer you on. Yeah!