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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Filmmakers! Learn To Kill Your Baby.


No I'm not actually talking about killing a real baby.
It's the trap that many indies fall into, as well as most any artist starting out. You become so attached to your project that you don't see what needs to be cut out, or you refuse to cut something out because you worked so hard on it, or because you think it's just to awesome to omit.

But you have to.

You have to learn to really look at your work through your viewers eyes and understand that what they're seeing may not match what you are seeing. Sure you may think that long 22 second shot of the horizon you worked so hard to get is just so amazingly beautiful you have to leave it in. But through the audience POV it's a long as 22 second shot that's boring as hell.

You have to consider what moves the story forward. Everything within your movie has got to move the story forward. If it doesn't, cut it out.  Learn to understand what may be a potential dealbreaker with the audience. I don't care how beautiful the footage is, how funny, neat, or spectacular YOU think the scene may be, if it's not moving the story along chances are it's boring the hell out of us all.

I bring this up because as I go through what's left to shoot of the script for my feature REDD, I'm noticing things that could be combined, shortened, and tightened up. At the same time I'm going over scenes in editing trying to tighten things up there as well. There is one particular scene that just doesn't work. It's a scene between 3 main characters that is absolutely necessary to the plot. It's exposition that the audience needs to know. It's necessary. And it's boring me to death.
So I cut it and have come up with a new and simpler way to get the info to the audience without them having to stare at three people talking for an eternity (really just 2 minutes, but it felt like so so much longer.)

But there was a time, years ago, when I would have left it just the way it was. I would've thought about how I couldn't possibly cut this out because we worked so hard to shoot this. All the setups, the struggle to deal with the camera  overheating, us dealing with the heat, the long trek up and down hill to the location, the actors working hard to remember there lines and perform under heat and pressure. To cut this scene would mean all that work would have been a big waste.

But you have to find a way to push all that aside and stick to that one rule.

IF IT DOESN'T SERVE THE BEST INTEREST OF THE MOVIE, CUT IT.

But too many moviemakers starting out are too afraid to kill their baby.

"It's my creation, my masterpiece, my baby. I couldn't possibly butcher it."

Get over it. You have to.

Ok, so let's not refer to it as killing. You're sculpting. You're molding.

Like an artist chipping away at stone, you're chiseling away all the excess bits to get to the statue underneath. Does that artist pine and sob over every bit of rock he knocks away? No, and neather should you.

If your movie was really a baby, then you as the director have to learn to be a better parent. You're movie in it's earliest stages is just growing. You have to raise it. Mold it, guide it into the fully grown matured movie that it was born to be. Sure it's adorable when the kid runs around in it's diaper holding it's Cabbage Patch Doll (Wow, that's an old reference). Eventually your movie has to grow up.

It's your job to make sure your movie heads out into the real world fully formed minus the diaper and doll. You don't want to put your film out as an unprepared baby movie. What you want is to put out a fully erect adult film.

I mean, um. You know what I mean.


Patrick A. Prejusa

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