Filmmaking 101: Every Shot Answers a Question

A quick editing tip I sometimes find useful when I’m stuck trying to decide how to edit a scene: Sometimes it’s helpful to think of every shot as answering a question set up by the previous shot.

A simple example: let’s say you have a character who is surprised by something unexpected, and you need to decide whether to show the character’s surprise first and then cut to the thing she sees, or the other way around, show the unexpected thing first and then the character’s reaction to it.

In such a situation, try asking yourself which question you want the audience to ask: What is the character seeing that caused her reaction? Or, how is the character going to react when she sees it? This should help clarify the solution for you.

In The Art of Dreaming, when Maya wakes up and finds The Insect Queen in the room with her, I realized I wanted neither. I realized I wanted the audience to see at the exact moment that Maya does, so I cut to the shot of The Insect Queen on the exact frame that Maya’s eyeline lands on her.



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