Join Norman Hollyn for an in-depth discussion in this video Identifying the log line, part of Foundations of Video: The Art of Editing.
Norman: Now that we know that we are looking for Lean Forward Moments to help us focus the audience on the important areas in a scene. The question then becomes, how do we know what the important moments are? Obviously, they have to do with what story it is that we want to tell. So we can't know where to make the changes until we know what the scene is about. But how do we know what story the scene is supposed to tell? Well we really can't do that until we know what the whole film is about.
Now, when I ask people what their film is about, they generally give a blow by blow of the plot of the script, but that's not what the film is about. It's what it goes through in order to help you know what the film is about. But it's not really what it's about. Let's take a film like the Godfather. Which I totally recommend you run out and see right this minute. well maybe not right now. But as soon as you can. it has a complicated plot in which a crime family in the 1940s led by Vito Corleone, who is the godfather.
He struggles to fight off other crime families, while, his internal family struggles eventually elevate the reluctant Michael to take over as godfather after Vito dies. Right, well that's the plot, but it doesn't say what the film is about. So, the first question I ask is, who's movie is this? Well in this case it's not Vito's, but it's Michael's the sons. We watch him go from stow it family outsider, to involved son to the new Godfather.
Alright, so, once we know that then I ask, how does Michael change in the film? Well in order to do that, I ask myself what are some adjectives for him at the beginning of the film and some at the end. Well, at the beginning of the film, Michael is outside the family. He's upright. He's clean-cut. He's a war hero. He's resistant to participating in the crime business of the family. At the end of the film michael is inside the family.
He's no long so uptight, no longer so clean-cut, he is full of anger and he's embraced that family business. So now I can see how he changes. I'll ask myself, what causes him to change, and then I can start to put all of those things together into a few sentences about what the film is really about. So, let's try this. The Godfather is a story about Michael Corleone, a clean-cut, American war hero, who his the son of Don Vito Corleone.
A powerful New York crime boss in the 1940s. That's sentence one. Here's sentence two. Michael wants no part of the business, preferring a respectable life with his girlfriend Kay. But when his father is severely injured during a shooting by men working for Virgil Sollozzo, Michael discovers the anger. The power hungry ability to lead and he rises over his two brothers to take over the crime family when his father dies. I apologize for the spoiler alert, right? I told you to go see the film, but knowing how Ia film I'm editing is going to end, is important to shaping every scene within it.
So I call this short description of the project the Log Line. And it is the tool that you'll keep returning to again and again, during the editing process. What's great is that it lays out what is important about the film. I often say to filmmakers that a log line is that core of the movie that is so important. That if you couldn't get the audience to feel it, then you wouldn't want to make the movie at all. Knowing your log line will help answering nearly every question you'll have about editing a scene.
And it applies whether you're doing a feature drama like the Godfather, a music video, a documentary, a short film, anything. Now let's take a look at the same process using a short student film called Magellan, directed by Sebastian Davis. The log line for it goes something like this. Magellan is a short film about a hyper-awkward young boy who is ignored by his dysfunctional artist father. And always bullied by his classmates who go so far, as to toss his bicycle up into a tall tree.
When he meets a lonely latchkey girl, Tiana, he starts to come out of his shell enough to ask her to a school dance. When she accepts, then rejects him, he learns how to stand up for himself, ultimately finding the courage to face the world and get his bicycle back. So, we've learned that the movie focuses on Magellan, and as he makes the transition from awkward, frightened, loner, to engaged braver friend. Now of course, no real character changes completely and super quickly.
But these are all indicators which will help us chart the course that we want the audience to follow. And will help us to read the script, and capture the core ideas that the director, writer, and editors need to get from each scene. This will help us to figure out how to choose takes, to select sizes, to create the pace, you know basically to edit the entire film.
Start with an overview of concepts like the rule of threes, review a sampling of footage from films past and present, and then dive into script analysis. Find out when and when not to make cuts, how to collaborate with clients and directors during recutting, and how to ground the emotional backdrop for your piece with music and sound. Norman closes with a look at adapting to different genres and filmic styles.
- Exploring the history of video editing
- Controlling what the audience sees
- Identifying the logline
- Performing script and scene analysis
- Coming up with an editing plan
- Cutting from on-camera to off-camera action
- Understanding the value of recutting
- Shaping moments with music
- Working in a specific genre
- Mixing editing styles together