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  • Writer's pictureDorsa Sajedi

Editing Class 1: Dialogue-heavy Films

A technique that we touched upon today which I found very useful is establishing the line of intensity in a film's narrative. In a graph format, this would reach the peak during the film's most intentionally shocking/impactful moment, and the bottom during mellow or neutral moments. For learning purposes, I decided to apply this technique to a film I worked on last term. I did this by first marking out the most intense areas of the piece.


- Appearance of god-like character

- Implications that they are being watched

- Appearance of monster

- Realisation of key to shackles

- Peak intensity: reaching for the key

- Sudden drop to bottom level intensity, time has reset

- Monster crawling to reach them again


When working with the footage, we identified clear problems that us as the editor had to try and solve:

  • Unbalanced coverage, resolution: getting hands on a marked script as early as possible, and ensuring there are varied lines on each area, and not a bunch of short lines but rather long lines with 'wiggles' as it indicates that they are continuing the shot even though in those early stages of production they feel it wont make its way into the edit. If its too late to do this, try not to edit chronologically. Prioritise moments where we should be the 'closest' to certain characters.

  • No CU of protagonist, resolution: same as above!

  • Boring blocking/minimal movement, resolution: filmed test shoots that can be edited in early stages. Again, if too late, follow each character's gaze and carry as much of the most engaging movements as much as possible.

  • Often unnecessary dialogue, resolution: position yourself as an audience member when expressing to directors that you feel these parts can be cut, but remember to try as much as you can before doing so.

Other helpful tips and such:

  • To or to not cut on action: Do this when you want the cut to be seamless and smooth, but when exploring and expressing an awkward interaction, stick with the previous shot until there is clear visual intention of movement, and then proceed to the next shot where the movement is executed. This increases the impact of the moment.

  • Utilising reaction shots: Allow extra frames at the start to decrease the likeliness of a reaction being missed. The visual transition in emotion/body/facial expression makes it more impactful for the audience.

  • Ensuring the edit is engaging: If a short is not engaging within the first minute, then there is too high a risk of losing viewers.

  • Inciting Incident: When viewing a marked up script for a ten minute film, remember that the inciting incident really should be on the first/early second page.

  • Artificial Pauses: Don't be afraid of using this!

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