I spent a lot of time experimenting with footage from 17 West’s upcoming short film The Climb. When we shot the film, the intention was always to try different things and evolve as an editor. The majority of my editing experience lies in the fast paced world of live television. As you can imagine, there are few occasions when you can spend months working on one piece. But the experimentation can only last so long and a few weeks ago, I finally buckled down to finish the film once and for all.
During my month long break from blogging, I edited and finalized 80% of the film including… The Scene.
I think every film has one scene that can make or break it. In this case, The Climb has a scene that’s 9 1/2 pages long consisting of two characters under a bridge… Talking. We shot the scene from a variety of angles and allowed our actors to go through the entire scene each time. These shots wound up being roughly 8-10 minutes each. That’s pretty long considering I wanted the final film to be less than 15 minutes. So I knew some dialogue would have to go eventually.
When we finished the masters, we went in for closeups and really focused on key moments during the scene. By the time I finished editing the scene, it was 6 1/2 minutes long… And it was boring.
FIXING YOUR BORING SCENE
It’s amazing how different the writing on the page can be when you are watching the results on screen. Honestly, the scene was just too long. Lets face it, long scenes like this are difficult to pull off.
However, I hadn’t really cut much out of it yet and that is why I love editing.
If something isn’t working you have to step back, identify the problems and find a way to solve them creatively.
In this situation, I went through the scene and cut every line I could to tighten things up as much as possible. While I was completing that process, I had a moment of inspiration. I knew how to fix the scene.
I had to be careful because it was such a pivotal scene but my idea was simple. In the film, after a long conversation, my main character spends some time at a beach considering his options. I decided to inter cut that footage with my long scene. Combining those two scenes was a great way to pick up the pace while allowing me options to cut out lines without worrying about continuity and such. It also elevated the sequence visually.
It was the perfect solution and by the time I was finished, all remnants of my boring scene had vanished.
The trick was finding a way to have the film convey the same message in a more economical way. So instead of having 2 separate scenes, I had one sequence that was infinitely more effective. If you find yourself stuck, take a moment and really think about what you want the film to be and consider every single option you can come up with. In fact, take it a step further and TRY every option you can come up with. If it doesn’t work so be it. At least you tried. The benefit to that approach is kick starting your brain. When that happens, anything is possible.
For me, all that stands in my way now is the ending. I’m sure there will be more challenges and problems to solve but I can’t wait to tackle them on.