Join Norman Hollyn for an in-depth discussion in this video Television and episodic, part of Foundations of Video: The Art of Editing.
Many of you will be making short series that you'll be putting on the web. And though that may seem like a new form, it really isn't when you think about analyzing movies for story because television has been doing episodes of series for years and years. By now it should come as no surprise that the way that we have been analyzing our stories will work pretty much the same for episodic stories as well as for single films. So let's review that process quickly.
We first try and figure out what the film's entire story is. We call that the logline. Then we look at a scene that we'll be editing and figure out what that's about. We're calling that the scene analysis and once we figure out whose scene it is and how that person changes from the beginning to the end of the scene, we find the lean forward moments where that character changes. Now, let's expand that idea to deal with episodes of a series. You can look at each individual episode of an episodic show as an individual movie.
It will have its own log line. But, there are additional factors in a series, the first of which is that each episode is just one of a group of episodes that tell an overall story. A season of a series tells a number of somewhat connected stories which usually combine into one overall story. So each season tells a story on top of the individual stories that each episode will tell. But on top of that there's the entire series which is set in its own world and has its own overall arc.
Each episode then contributes to the arc of the season and each season contributes to the storytelling arc of the entire series. So what does this mean for you, the editor? This means that there are several additional layers on top of the individual episode's log line. There'll be a log line for the season and a log line for the series. That way you can make sure that each scene within each episode is pushing the overall story forward. Let's take a look at an example.
Space Janitors is a comedy series which follows a few janitors and other day-to-day support crew on a battle station in space. Each episode has its own self-contained story in much the same way that many network comedy half-hour shows do. But over the course of the first season we find that we tend to be following one character more than the others. And that's Darby who is a hapless janitor who always seems to want more. In the first episode, we see him deal with his breakup from Elle, a humanlike android.
In later episodes, we see him deal with his desire to become a warrior, his accidently launching an invasion of an entire planet, and his destroying another one completely. Even though other characters are prominent, we always focus in on his character, and his arc. So the overall arc of the story, and therefore the way in which we edit each scene, will be Darby centered. When we ask ourselves our normal question, Whose scene is this, the answer will always be Darby.
And when we come up with a log line for each episode, it will also always be about Darby. By the same token, the season should also be about Darby. And at the risk of spoiling the series a bit for you, here's a log line for season one. Space Janitors is a science fiction-inspired comedy about Darby, a low-level, hapless and clueless janitor on a battle station who dreams of being and doing more. Over the course of season one, he struggles and fails at every attempt to better himself, angering his android ex-girlfriend Elle, endearing himself to the sweet Edith, and engaging in pointless daily banter with the happy go-lucky janitor Mike.
Okay. One more sentence and this is longer than a usual log line but it has to carry over a full season. As Darby continues to fail, his resolve to try again gets larger until he receives the shocking news. That he is actually the son of a famous rebel, an alien fish and he is destined for greatness. This means that every scene in every episode leading up to the end of season one should help us in a comic way to learn more about Darby and his struggles.
One of the challenges of working in webisodes and increasingly in episodic television as well. Is that you never know what episode your audience will start watching first. That means at the beginning of each episode needs to give audiences just enough information for them to get caught up, but to get into new material quickly to capture those who were being watching it. Let's look at the last episode of the first season. The Rule of Threes tells us that we should know what came before, and the episode helps us with that.
>> Previously on Space Janitors. >> I'm going to be somebody someone's going to want to shoot at. >> Yeah but it's janitor right here though right? In the middle of a career change. >> That one of of those laser swords? >> They must be rebels. >> Oh, no. No. >> No. No. >> Rebel. Pew, pew, pew, pew. >> It's the purple plan to attack the station. >> You just ordered the invasion of an entire planet with only 1500 men. >> The more they disobey the emperor, the more we tighten our grip.
The more we tighten our grip. The more systems will be firmly held in our massive space hand. >> >> I was send here by your father, Admiral Guldesack. >> My dad's a rebel? >> And now, the conclusion. >> This section, called a previously on, catches you up while focusing primarily on Darby's character. It has the comedic style of the series. It doesn't discuss all of the plot points, only the main ones that will be dealt within this episode.
Notice how it has it's own build leaving us with the biggest plot point. >> My Dad's a rebel? >>Equally important is to how you start an episode is how you end each episode. You want the audience to back when the next episode is released. Let's take a look at the end of episode eight, which was the finale of the first season. After discovering that his father is a rebel and that he is actually from a race of fish, Darby must make the decision whether to keep being a janitor or fulfill his destiny.
The final scene of the season after Darby is been confronted by his own failures as he and his friend Mike playing golf on the deck of the space station. He's troubled by the lack of improvement in his life. >> Here we are traveling the galaxy, but we're still trapped. >> Notice how the top of this area is shaped. Darby is getting all of the close-ups, not Mike. And each time that they cut back to Darby He has a pause before delivering his line. As we've seen before, this makes us realize that Darby is thinking, and that is pushing us into Darby's head.
Note also that the music begins as Darby moves to take his shot. Remember that music is an important element in helping us to focus on who's important. So who's important here? Obviously Darby. From a scripted sense, notice how it is Darby who makes the last golf hit before that ending reveal of the menacing spaceships. The editor could have cut it in other ways, but chose to give Darby the last big action. Not only will this bring people back to the series, not only does this maintain a humorous tone.
But it also sets up something in the story that creates its own lean forward moment. Here is something that will change Darby's life forever. Don't forget to watch the second season, they seem to be saying. This is shaping, using editing across an episode, a season and an entire series.
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