Find a movie or other sequence (audio-visual) that you review and assess in terms of editing techniques and terminology.
The sequence I will be analysing today will be a sequence from the film Shaun Of The Dead called ‘The Plan’. This scene shows Shaun and Ed trying to figure out a plan to collect their family and loved ones in the apocalypse and retreat to a safe place. It takes place in a series of flash-forwards or prolepses of each proposed plan being carried out. In this scene, we see many editing techniques used to build momentum such as jump cuts, breaking of the ‘180-degree rule’, shorter shot durations, crash zooms, and swish pans.
JUMP CUTS (AND BREAKING THE 180-DEGREE RULE)
One editing technique that is significant in this scene is the use of Jump Cuts. Jump cuts are described by Bordwell and Thompson (2016) as being ‘very visible’ and how they ‘disorient the spectator’. This is visible in this sequence as we see many jump cuts through the flash-forward scenes. One of these is visible where we see Shaun putting his feet on the accelerator and then it jump cuts to a shot of them driving off.
The use of jump cuts here helps to build up the pace and emphasise the fact that they are in a hurry. These two shots also break the ‘180-degree rule’ (Proferes, Nicholas T., 2005) as we see the 180 line being crossed in filming. Both of these editing techniques break typical editing conventions which are used throughout this scene to not only make the viewer feel disorientated as suggested by Bordwell and Thompson but also to build up speed and pace in a scene that is supposed to be tense and full of action.
AVERAGE SHOT LENGTH/DURATION
The average shot duration in the flash-forward scenes is also a lot shorter than the rest of the scene. Bordwell (2006) also talks about how in US filmmaking, films are now being cut a lot more rapidly than they used to be and how the ‘average shot lengths’ (ASL) are now a lot shorter. This editing technique of shorter shot length can be seen in the part of the scene where Ed and Shaun go to Shaun’s mum’s house and ring the doorbell.
These shots, both one after the other, are extremely short in shot length at just 1 second each. This, in contrast to other longer parts in the scene, makes the plan stand out as the shots are a lot more fast-paced and almost rushed. Another thing to notice is that after each recap of the plan, the average shot length of the shots in the plan get shorter and shorter, making each recap a lot quicker – highlighting the pressure of the situation and getting the plan right.
To conclude, this scene uses editing techniques such as jump cuts and shorter shot lengths to create action and speed in ‘the plan’ segments. These techniques are used to not only make the audience feel disorientated but also to indicate the desperation of Shaun and Ed in creating the ‘perfect plan’ and how they are under a time pressure to get it right.
BORDWELL, D., 2006. The way Hollywood tells it story and style in modern movies. Berkeley: University of California Press
PROFERES, N.T., 2005. Film directing fundamentals : see your film before shooting. 2nd ed. Burlington, MA: Focal Press
THOMPSON, K., J. SMITH and D. BORDWELL, 2016. Film art : an introduction. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education