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08/09/2006: "The Thunder's Always Coming"
Friend-of-the-blog Lani wrote to me with a contribution to the ongoing discussion of when one cuts out of scene early versus when one cuts late. I thought her analysis was so good, not to mention poetic, that I'm presenting it to you here. Take it, Lani!
Lani: "You can cut on the lightning or you can cut after the thunder. I don't think choosing one is a criticism of the other, but they definitely do give a different flavor to each choice. I haven’t seen "Little Miss Sunshine," but I think that method [cutting early] would work because it's so engaging. The viewer has to actively participate, to anticipate, in order to get it. And it's interesting that directors are trusting their audiences' sophistication and ability to do that. Yay for that! But with "The Office," it's more real. In real life, we can't cut at the lightning – the thunder's always coming. And even though we know it's coming, there's something that bonds us in the experience of it. The same way we've all lived through the awkward aftermath of a Michael Scott moment."
Wow. Well said. Thanks, Lani!
Now, moving on a bit, I want to address a question I was asked recently about scene length as seen in a more mathematical light. A writer noticed that the produced scripts they'd acquired for the show they were specing had scenes as long as 4 pages in them, and asked me if that was unusual. Actually, it is not. Have no fear of writing scenes of any particular length, as long as the show customarily does so. Buffy sometimes had big group scenes that could be as long as 6 or 7 pages, while Gilmore Girls scenes often ran --and run -- far longer than that! Do as your show does and you won't go wrong. Some scenes simply contain a lot of stuff that needs to happen. If you get really nervous about it, break the scene up by making the characters move to another location during it, or maybe cut away to another story in another location and then come back to your monster scene.
Lunch: Chicken salad sandwich and pie, purchased from -- get this -- a Marie Calendar's guy who came to our office to sell stuff directly from his travelling caravan of coolers! Wonderful!