The Thrills & Spills of Editing Yourself
by Larry Brody
One of the most difficult tasks for any writer, new or old, is editing.
In TV and films, the ability to edit your teleplay or screenplay is crucial. There are many good reasons for writing tersely and tightly, but one of the least understood is the fact that part of the magic of film and tape is that they expand time.
By that I mean that scenes invariably seem to have taken longer to play than they really did – even well-written scenes. In television, two minutes of talk usually feels to the viewer like ten. And a couple of minutes of action can seem like an entire military battle.
In order to make this work for you instead of against you, the writer must learn to delete any word or sequence that is not absolutely necessary.
Speeches that do not simultaneously reveal character and attitude and also forward the story should be the first things to go.
Extra words in speeches, such as “I think that maybe we can” should be changed to, “We can.” The actor and the situation will fill in the missing “personality.” Don’t believe me? Watch your favorite film and see.
One of the ways I know I’m reading a really good script is that there’s a slight sensation of something missing. Not a lot, just the little extra oomph that, say, a novel would have.
If you get that feeling when you read over what you’ve written, don’t despair. Instead, be joyful. It means you’ve fulfilled the screen and TV writer’s part of the collaborative effort that is production – and left something for the director and actors to supply!
Another in what I hope will be a long run of helpful hints for TV writers here on TVWriter™ every Tuesday. Which brings up a point: If you’d like to share some writing tips with your fellow TVWriter™ visitors, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to make a guest post happen.