O is for … Out-takes

April 17, 2012

Film editing is almost as much about what one takes out as what one leaves in. Sometimes a scene taken on its own is a wonderful scene, but just doesn’t add to the film as a whole. It doesn’t move the story along, it doesn’t make an important point, it just “is” — and as such is a candidate for “is not.”

Blake Edwards, a director I admire greatly, knew this very well. In the voice-over commentary on Victor/Victoria, he talked about a scene he excised. He said it was very funny, but it simply didn’t add enough to the whole story. He could get the point across in a much more concise way, so the scene became an out-take.

His wife, who saw his creative process in its entirety, unlike the rest of us who only see the finished product, has said that it was amazing to watch him work. He often wrote, directed and edited his movies, and yet when he was directing, he could see when scenes he had written were not working, when he was editing, he had no fear of cutting scenes that he’d directed particularly well. All that he did was in the service of the story.

And that’s where the link to writing comes in. All that a writer does must be in the service of the story as well. Every word, every scene, every characterization has to count. Otherwise, although there may be a pang as the words disappear, the writer must grit his or her teeth and leave words, scraps of dialogue, scenes, even whole characters, on a figurative “cutting room floor.”

Editing can be painful, but it’s necessary. We have to do what best serves the story. Sometimes that means out-takes. That’s life.

 

A to Z Challenge

26 People reacted on this

    1. I saw version of Pretty Woman that had scenes that were deleted from the box office version I had always seen before and it was really interesting – the box office version was much better – they were right to delete those scenes!

  1. I’m like Erik. I like the “out takes.” It really does give you a visual of how a change of words (scenes) can really tell a different story. Enjoying this series Beth.

    1. Hi, Far Away Eyes — thanks for dropping in!

      It is indeed sometimes painful, and it’s also sometimes hard to know what to cut. Your point about needing wisdom is so true.

  2. I remember well the voice over of “Victor Victoria”. That’s what made him a great director.
    It’s true one can feel pained at cutting back, but if it works for the story…. *sigh*. Even when others may say ” leave it in…”

  3. O, very clever! I like it! You’re really good with all these analogies you come up with.
    Outtakes always amuse me 🙂

  4. Those edits can be a bit painful, especially when it’s for a particular “darling” that we’ve latched on to for dear life. Also, those lines that are just so brilliant you almost can’t believe you wrote them, yeah, those can be hard to cut as well. But your point is right, if it does not add to the story or move the story along, then it must “Meet with the Editor”.

    1. I love the way you word things, Angela! Yes, that dreaded meeting with the editor has to happen, even for some absolute strokes of brilliance. Sigh.

  5. I have seen recently where novelists are offering their own form of outtakes by putting deleted scenes on their blog. An interesting concept!! 🙂

  6. Being comfortable and willing to leave unnecessary elements of a film or piece of literary material on the cutting room floor is one of the best ways to make sure that the finished work is all that it needs to be and nothing more. After one of my readers and blogging friends mentioned “Victor, Victoria” several weeks ago, I placed it on my Netflix list, so I shall be watching that movie one of these days.

    Cheers!

    ~Nicole
    Blog: The Madlab Post
    *Rockin’ the A to Z Challenge!*
    @MadlabPost on Twitter

    1. “all it needs to be and nothing more” — great way to phrase it.

      Enjoy Victor, Victoria! and thanks for dropping in!

  7. Great post. This is such a great way of looking at how and why we should pay attention to editing our own work. Sometimes it is for the better. Very creative!

  8. Excellent post. It can be painful cutting something that you’ve put so much into, but in the end it’s worth it.

    I love watching deleted scenes. I’m sure I would equally love reading deleted scenes from novels I enjoyed.

    1. It’s interesting to speculate what the deleted scenes in novels would be like. I know I’ve excised some things that I thought were pretty good. I’ve also excised some that definitely WEREN’T good, and I’m just as glad those won’t be read by anyone! 😉

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