Join Norman Hollyn for an in-depth discussion in this video Introducing the Lean Forward Moment, part of Foundations of Video: The Art of Editing.
So, let's go over the concepts that we've learned so far. We've learned that audiences react to something that has changed on screen. We've learned that the order in which you present shots affects how audiences will react. We've also learned that the impact of a shot or a scene is directly dependent on the shot or a scene that came before it. And will totally effect our reactions to the shot or the scene that comes after it, right? This is called, in my world, the Rule of Threes. So now it's time to put those things together, and come up with the key idea that will help to guide us through the rest of this course.
A concept called the Lean Forward Moment. This is perhaps the key concept that will help you when you're editing no matter what type of project you're working on. So in order to help do that, let's take a look at a scene from a very, very old film. One that has screened thousands of times in film schools across the world. The 1925 film Battleship Potemkin directed by Sergei Eisenstein. Now Battleship Potemkin is a great piece of propaganda about why the Russian people needed to break away from evil rulers. The Czars, and their police, the Cossacks.
The script starts by showing how the good sailors on board the battleship are horribly mistreated. And it ends as the Russian citizens overthrow their Czars. After the sailors succeed in their rebellion it's time for the citizens of Odessa to do the same. And then this famous scene happens. I should point out that this scene was shot silent and that the music has been temped in by us. Now that music is certainly going to shape our reaction to the scene, and we'll talk about that in later movies.
So, let's look at the scene and try to remember the areas the affected us the most.
I've screened this scene for hundreds of people, all across the world. And the groups usually come up with two or three major areas that affected them the most, always. Those areas are where the Cossacks first enter terrorizing the group. The area where the mother carries her son up to the Cossacks to get them to stop the slaughter. And the area where the baby carriage careens down the steps, after the baby's mother is shot. So, we can assume that Eisenstein shaped the movie, so that we can all feel those moments.
In fact, if you take a look at the shape of this scene, you can see how it climbs from the place where the Happy Russians first get attacked by the Cossacks, and chaos ensues. Then we focus on the mother with her son. When they are killed, chaos ensues again. Finally, we focus on the baby in the carriage, and when that baby is killed, the scene is over. The moments where we most pay attention are what I call Lean Forward Moments. And we'll keep coming back to this concept throughout the course.
Every single thing that we talk about here, from editing, to sound and music, to style, is informed by this idea of the Lean Forward Moment. These are the moments when the audience will emotionally lean forward and pay more attention. And that's why I call them Lean Forward Moments. Now actually, we went at this backwards. We looked at a finished scene, and found out where the director placed the Lean Forward Moments. In a short scene there may be only one. In a more complex one, there might be two or three.
But, you as a creator are going to work in the other direction. You will read your script first, and figure out where you want those Lean Forward Moments to come. And they will always have to do with your story. In the case of Potemkin, Eisenstein wanted us to realize why the people had to overthrow the Czars. In the movie, he spent the first half of the film showing us how badly the sailors were treated. And in this scene, he showed us how badly the people were treated.
First, the crowd is terrorized. Then, the mother and her son are badly treated. And finally, we see how the baby and her mother are treated. These three moments, the Lean Forward Moments, are those moments that Eisenstein needed to deliver full maximum impact for his story? Now, note how he changes things right around those moments, that's right, it's our old friend change. We talked about that back in the Rule of Threes. When filmmakers change their film making, it causes the audience to lean forward and pay more attention.
So it's best to save those kinds of changes for those moments. So, what does change? Let's focus in on one of the Lean Forward Moments in the scene. In the area right before the mother carries her injured son up the stairs. We can see that we are coming from chaos. That is shot on a lot of quickly cut wide and medium wide shots. We are not really focusing on any one person in particular, and the music is quite busy. As we move into the area, where Eisenstein wants us to feel for the mom and her son.
He and his editor started to slow down the pace of the cuts. We are also starting to see more close up shots, right? So, Eisenstein has changed the pacing of the editing, the size of the shot, as well as focusing on just one major character. But something also changed around here. The music. As we'll discuss in a later movie, music is one of the most powerful ways of attracting the audience. So the fact that the music changes at this moment, also helps us to lean forward and pay attention to his message.
This is the beginning of building the tool set, that editors use to manipulate the audience to feel what we want them to feel, to convey our message. But this only makes sense when we know the story we want to tell. When we know that overall story, we can figure out what each individual scene needs to do, to tell that story. And then we can find the Lean Forward Moments in each scene, that will help the audience to focus in on them.
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