To paraphrase Woody Allen from the end of Annie Hall, an emotional exchange is like a shark – it has to keep moving forward or it dies. For an editor this means: you can’t repeat an emotional moment without killing it (you can sustain it but that’s another blog post!) This post is about cutting so that the emotion is always in motion.
To keep emotion in motion you have to keep the characters moving toward their objectives.
- What does this character want? These are their Objectives
- and what will they do to get it? These are their Actions
- Where are the beats?
Here’s an example:
In this two hander the woman wants to go, and the man wants her to stay.
Objectives: Her objective is to get away, his objective is to keep her there.
What will each of them do to get what they want?
His Actions: To ask, to cajole, to demand, to plead, to beg
Her Actions: To dodge, to tease, to dismiss, to resist, to reject
Tip: You can see all of this going on in the way they speak - intonation, force, speed, and the movement of bodies – posture, gesture, movement energy. Watch and listen to the way they move and you are watching and listening to the movement of emotion.
He asks. Cut. She dodges. Cut back to him – what does he do when she dodges? He has a beat, he changes his action, asking didn’t work, so he tries cajoling, and so on.
Your job as an editor is to keep the emotions MOVING. If he asks, she dodges and he asks again (repeats), the scene dies. He asks, she dodges, he cajoles – now the scene is in motion he is changing because her actions have an effect on him. He makes another choice, she makes another choice, we cut the emotion moving between them escalating/diminishing, winning/losing, causing/effecting to keep the emotion in motion.
What do you do?
- Select the shots where they execute their actions most effectively,
- pit these against the counter actions of the other characters,
- cut back to the first character to find out what they do next to achieve their objective. Beware:
Don’t cut back to them just feeling something, like feeling sad because their action didn’t work (unless it is the end of the scene).
- Cut back to them doing something and the emotion stays in motion.