lucas j harger
On Scene Objective

Getting into and consequently out of a scene can be some of the trickiest parts of the first assembly (mentally and as far as workflow goes). Once transitions are established, the cut begins to take form. The assembly begins to feel effortless and we wonder how we got so caught up in the transition in the first place, once we are on the other side of the mountain.

I believe all scenes should be cut with intention: with a purpose and a vision. What is the function of this scene? This should be our driving question as we assemble. The answer to that question will inform where and how we make cuts. Decisions are being made regardless of the intention. The decision is the constant while intention is the variable (one of the elements separating a poor editor from a good editor). While you’re at the decision making process, it is better to be intentional than careless. I’m not saying that every decision is a conscious one. If so, this can create dry cuts often, lacking emotion. When we exclusively, consciously cut we miss what Eisentien calls the “fourth dimension of film.”

Regarding thoughts on subconscious decisions, Spielberg has said, “are there any other decisions worth making?” Some call it cutting from the gut. Regardless of terminology, subconscious cutting is a step to uncovering the fourth dimension of film. The process of juxtaposing images of Meaning A and Meaning B, but when consecutive they create meaning Z.

So what definition am I presenting as the idea of intentional cutting?

Scene Objective.

What is the objective of the scene you are cutting? What is its function in the act and story? How is this scene used in the tapestry of the film? These are important thoughts to consider prior to entering the edit room (a great prepro exercise for the editor/director). This exercise can often be done with the script. It's a practice that will make you familiar with the story and the intent of the scenes within said story. Read a scene, write four words or phrases that capture the objective of the scene, then cut to that objective.

All good editors will know that these established objectives are not immovable. Objectives can, will, and should change throughout the edit. What you first thought was the objective of scene five is not at all the objective when cutting scene thirteen. So what then is the point? To stay on point. To create a common terminology with the director. To have a feel for which scenes may need more objective or less objective. To understand the flow of the story and structure.

To see the film before the film exists.