Should you cut the scene? How We Made a Webseries: Putting the story first Part 1

When Fact Met Fiction

How we decide if we want to cut the scene

When we write the script for one of our episodes or screenplays the most important thing for us is the story. What this means is that any aspect of the story from the plotline to characters to locations are all expendable if they don’t serve the story.

But just because we lock in a script doesn’t mean it is set in stone. We have learned from experience to be flexible. Changes have been made to our stories after table reads and even once we have started shooting an episode. You never know what one of your actors will do or say that resonates with how you want the story conveyed. These are things that hopefully get worked out before preproduction or principle photography. However, sometimes you don’t see story killers until you’ve already shot the script.

So there you are watching hour after hour of footage. You’re looking for those amazing performances and beautiful shots. You label the takes you want to use and do your rough cut and play it back. But something doesn’t feel right. You watch it again and try to put your finger on it. Then you see it. That moment that just isn’t working.

There are so many reasons a shot or line might bother us so we decided to narrow it down to:

Our top 3 simple reasons why we cut the scene

  1. There was something wrong with the footage. Okay, this may seem like a no brainer, but sometimes you may decide to actually keep problematic footage if it is the only footage you have that serves the story. But sometimes, when the problem is something that is really bothersome you have to ask yourself how necessary the scene is to the story. In the video below we give an example of why a scene that had content we felt strongly about ended up on the proverbial “cutting room floor”.     
  2. The scene or line didn’t make sense. Director Stefan Liner cut a particular scene due to the fact that it didn’t make sense that the character does what he does when he does it. Again, everything needs to serve the story. It can be difficult to remove something that has bits and pieces of things you really want to have on screen. The following video will give you a better idea of what I mean.
  3. The line or joke just didn’t work. We have seen many examples of shows that left in scenes or lines that just didn’t work. We have done this ourselves and regretted it. The punchline fizzled or the dialogue made the story drag. Making sure the pacing stays on point isn’t always easy but it is crucial or you can lose the interest of the viewer.

Here is our best advice when approaching this issue:

DON”T BE IN LOVE WITH ANYTHING IN YOUR SCRIPT!

So you shot the episode. You think it went well until you have the rough cut glaring back at you. As you watch it you realize that punchline you absolutely adored just isn’t working. Maybe the timing is off. Whatever the reason it is becoming clear that it needs to go. But you love that line. It was brilliant. It should have worked. If you belabor it you might be able to convince yourself that it still does.

Don’t do it. Just let it go. I realize that breaking up is hard to do, but sometimes it is for the best. Trust us on this. If it isn’t serving the story. If it doesn’t keep you riveted until the end. If a bad shot makes it more distracting than it should. Take out the proverbial scissors and let it fall to the cutting room floor. After the pain has subsided you’ll be glad you did.

To watch the entire season of our web-series, When Fact Met Fiction, Click Here.

Have you found yourself having a hard time letting go of a part of a scene? How did you work it out? Tell us your story and let’s start a conversation because we are all striving to be better filmmakers and tell better stories.

Thanks for reading,

Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter