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Edited Yourself into a Hole? Use Arrival Editor Joe Walker’s Tricks for Getting Unstuck

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Screenwriting 15th Nov 2016 Moviemaker


It’s too slow. It’s too fast. It doesn’t resonate or just doesn’t make sense.

If something isn’t working in your edit, it usually comes down to a few things. Invention lies in recognizing the problems—truly seeing and analyzing them.

The best way to dig yourself out of the weeds is to screen the film as often as possible—first to yourself and your team, then to trusted friends. Invite smart people and listen to what they have to say. Sitting next to an audience, their souls available to you for two hours in the dark, is a way to sense, almost chemically, what works.

The editor’s greatest superpower is playing with time: speeding things up or slowing them down to examine a moment in microscopic detail. This simulates our experience of life—the altered sense of time when a car lurches without warning across the lanes ahead. “Pace” isn’t just rattling through a film without allowing anyone to feel anything; you have to add variety and landscape the moments you want to dwell on. A director I worked with used to say, “You’ve got to sell some to buy others.” Apply firm scrutiny of the sense of time throughout the story.

I have a trick for this: When the film’s in good shape and you’re nearly finished, write scene numbers on a slip of paper and pull each randomly from a hat. Then, look at that scene—only that scene. Maybe investigate the dailies one more time. Is it the best it can be? Toward the end of movies there tend to be scenes that don’t get as much of a workout as those up top. This prevents that carelessness. Economize. Use cuts as sparely as you can. Don’t tire everyone out telling them what to think all the time. Allow the audience to invest their attention in a character or a shot.

Read the full article at Moviemaker

screenwriting, scriptwriting

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