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    "anticipatory" writing/editing
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    Something I've really noticed recently-- not that the trend is recent, but my awareness of it is-- is what I will here call "anticipatory" editing, also kinda writing, I suppose, depending on if the original screenplay was written with the editing in mind the same way it ends up in the final product.

    What I'm talking is is story arcs or even moments within a scene where you KNOW something is going to happen, and simply have to wait for it to see what "it" is, rather than completely being surprised by the event entirely.

    Best examples are when you know someone's about to get attacked/murdered etc. Usually this is set up with lingering on a character's mundane moments way longer than you normally would (gets home to empty house, checks mail, puts away groceries, etc). I think we've been conditioned by decades of TV/movies to know "aaawwwwww sheeyit, something's gonna happen!". Bonus cheese points for subtle ominous music underneath. And then you have to just sigh and wait for it.

    Another would be setting up two characters to fall in love/bone. A shot that lingers on one character's glance to another. A scene where the spend too much time together. Great, now we have to wait six episodes or a season for that to resolve itself in the way we simply KNOW it will. I'm not talking where it's right there on the surface, the "I like her but I don't know if it's mutual" kinda stuff, but rather the more subdued moments that nevertheless make a story's trajectory really obvious.

    As you can see, I am somewhat annoyed by how telegraphed all this, that you can see it coming moments or sometimes miles away.

    So, a) do you guys think, as people who make films or perhaps have worked with writers/directors etc., that this telegraphing is intentional? And b) Do you find it annoying, i.e. would you rather be completely be surprised by something happening, when it happens, rather than knowing an event is coming and having to wait for story to kill time 'til it does?
    Last edited by Josh Bass; 11-13-2020 at 09:41 AM.


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    I don't know if this is directly to what yer talking about - but more and more it seems films are 'sit back, we're gonna do all the work for ya." Films where ya don't even have to think. The camera is leaping across the room, the music is non stop, lots of violence, sex, special effects, genetic celebrities looking good, etc. I guess they call it entertainment. Then ya got just the opposite. Or films that strive to have some meat on the bones. I tend to watch films I've already seen. The classics of American and foreign. Tried recently to watch the queens gambit. Watched 2 shows. I could have easily watched the rest. As ez as eating a quart of hagen dazs or watching porn. I'd rather watch the third man for the hundredth time or la strada or shoot the piano player, etc. But it's hard - i heard Hagen Dazs is coming out with........


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    Rockin the Boat
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    "anticipatory" writing/editing

    No, no, no, no, no.

    Yes, yes, there is definitely such a thing as "anticipatory" quote: where you KNOW something is going to happen, and simply have to wait for it to see what "it" is, rather than completely being surprised by the event entirely. Absolutely. So why "no, no, no"? Because you're putting the horse before the cart. It's in the minority of the cases where this is due to editing, and even more rarely due to writing. Instead, it is due to shooting, i.e. directing choices. You see our character from the back, and you know he's going to turn to leave, and you just KNOW that when he turns he'll be face to face with his enemy (friend, lover etc. - the other character). You know for two reasons - (a), because you've seen this trope done a million billion times in movies, and (b) because of the frequent artificiality of the camera position and other clues - for example, the camera is way too tight on the back of our hero, there's no reason for it to be so tight, except in order to obscure that there's someone standing behind him, and you want the "face to face". If the camera was further away, you'd spot the character right behing him (so he can be "face to face"). This is a simple example, but there are a million such setups - a character is artificially and unnaturally examining something for far too long, just so s/he can be "surprised" by someone's entry etc. The problem is that in order to create that effect, the director often makes something unnatural - quote: lingering on a character's mundane moments way longer than you normally would. So yes, the "anticipatory" style is super frequent.

    But note - that has little to do with editing. The director had to SHOOT it that way - made a specific choice to be f.ex. so tight on the back of the character... that's not the editor's choice... an editor doesn't place the camera or frame or direct movement. Now, what is true is that the director shot the scene in such a way as to FORCE such editing choices - he did the layup and the editor had to provide the "payoff", precisely as the director wanted; it looks as if it's the editing, but really, it's the directing forcing the editor's hand (btw. Hitchcock famously shot his films in such a way that there was only ONE way to edit his movies!).

    It has even less to do with writing. The writer doesn't determine how the scene is shot, much less put in camera angles (which is discouraged in scripts). It's the director who reads the screenplay and decides how it's shot. The writer writes "he was suprised do see", but it's the director who shoots it in a hacky way that's anticipatory instead of actually surprising.

    That's what I meant by "no, no, no, no" - it's not as you put it anticipatory writing/editing - it's anticipatory DIRECTING.

    However, you somewhat muddle the "anticipatory" concept here when you then start talking about developments in something "they'll fall in love" - that's due to something completely different, it's due to audience expectations and the ways in which films cater to and shape such expectations. We "anticipate" that after a long look between a boy and a girl that they'll fall in love, but that's not "anticipatory", that's called a PREDICTABLE DEVELOPMENT. It's a different kettle of fish, but a related phenomenon. And sometimes when you depict something, sorry but you're depicting reality. Because in reality you have people's looks linger when they're interested - that's just human nature - you may as well scream out "they're walking using their LEGS, how anticipatory!", well, uhm, yeah, that's how humans walk. And fall in love. By trying to spend more time together... duh. So you were right on track until you muddled things later on.

    Getting back to anticipatory DIRECTING, I often proclaim on these boards about how bad the level of directing is these days (in contrast to the generally extremely high level of acting skill). We live in the golden age of acting and horrible age of incompetent directing. Such "anticipatory" shooting, is simply lazy directing - where the director is too dumb or lazy to figure out a way of shooting that feels natural, rather than artificial (artificial - wrong timing, unnatural framing etc., dead giveaways). But, to be totally fair, it's not always the case that the director is bad - sometimes an idea that was once fresh simply got copied by other directors and beaten to death, so now it feels stale, and we can "anticipate", but it wasn't "anticipated" when f.ex. Hitchock first used it. Can't say that Hitch was a hack, just because folks stole his tricks and flogged them to death. And sometimes, it's the whole point - famously in horror movies, we know nobody in real life would f.ex. go into the dark woods, but hey we WANT them to go into the woods to get murdered and we're "anticipating" it with pleasure... part of the deal!

    All in all, you are 100% right - there is such a thing as "anticipatory" tropes, but those are 95% of the time due to directors and not editors and almost never writers.


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    Non practicing productions...seems like you put that name after this thought.


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    "So, a) do you guys think, as people who make films or perhaps have worked with writers/directors etc., that this telegraphing is intentional? And b) Do you find it annoying, i.e. would you rather be completely be surprised by something happening, when it happens, rather than knowing an event is coming and having to wait for story to kill time 'til it does?"

    Forgive me if I’m way off point here - but I read your post and this is all I can think of. For some reason I woke up this morning with a bad smell of Scorsese in the room. I know he's God for most peeps and was and I guess still is for me too. The scenes in his films have been drilled into my head knocking off most of the photos from my own life. I was watching Taxi Driver last night with the sound off. Studying what he was doing with the camera/staging - for we all know he's the king right? No one can throw a camera thru a window quicker than Marty. So I'm watching Taxi - and the camera is like a mosquito - here - there - everywhere - wanting yer blood and Travis is only coming in to apply for a job as a hacky. I have to say for me Scorsese is more responsible for the type of films I can't stand these days than any other director I can think of. It's the old pig-ring in the nose director at work. He wants you to see and hear everything he wants you to see/hear. He doesn't want you to have a thought by yerself - there's no room for dreaming in a Scorsese film - there's no time to poo pooING THINK in a Scorsese film. As he told a friend who was a construction worker in his house once who was looking at one of his paintings, "What are you looking at? Beat it!" There's a reason why the "I'm funny to you..." scene in Goodfellas is so famous in his films - 2 shots - simple - the viewer for once gets to think, to be as creative as the filmmaker. Tarkovsky wanted the viewer to be as poetic as he was when watching his films. Not Marty! OK - we all know Scorsese was asthmatic as a kid - saw life thru the third floor of his fire-escape. He wasn’t allowed to play with the other kids. The only place that was safe was the movies. Mike Leigh when asked when did he have an inkling that he might make films one day said, "My grandfather had died. He was living with us at home. Three guys from the funeral home were carrying him down on a stretcher from his room on the second floor. I noticed one of the guys who was carrying him had a bead of sweat hanging from the tip of his nose and I thought, I've never seen that in a movie before." This is why I would tell kids if you want to make great films watch Leigh, avoid Scorsese. If you want to make entertainment - well - just subscribe to Netflix. You’ll meet lots of Scorsese’s nephews and nieces with cameras. And they make great films like, The Queens Gambit.


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    I might as well put both feet in my mouth while I'm at it. I thought Pesci the best thing in The Irishman. The subtlety of that performance was amazing. Pesci said, "I know Al was gonna start his yelling, what was I gonna do?' He actually said that in front of Pacino in an interview - ha. Scorsese told Pesci do nothing. And it worked. Ford when doing the quiet man was filming the scene where Wayne pulls his wife off the train at the station. The producer said, "it would make a a great shot if you put the camera looking down from the walk bridge above the train." Ford said, "when yer talking to someone do you climb up a poo pooing tree and yell down at them? I want the camera where it is - looking straight into the eyes of the character." My feeling is that Scorsese is a yeller from trees. And as Sinead O'Conor said, "if yer yelling the whole time, no one can hear ya." Hi Marty - don't hate me


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    Rockin the Boat
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    Is the telegraphing intentional? In most cases, not. But of course, there are many cases where some telegraphing is intentional insofar as the director wants to prep the audience for a development, but wants it to be subconcious. For example, I was watching a movie yesterday ("The Curse of the Jade Scorpion" 2001 Woody Allen), and there was a scene where Woody enters his apartment for the first time and while we follow him through the the corridor inside there is a very prominent telephone on the wall and the camera angles to make sure we take it in fully. Now, it immediately alerted me to the fact that soon a telephone call will come through. I think Woody wanted us to be psychologically prepped for a phone call to happen soon, but didn't want to telegraph it in such a way that we'd have the reaction that I had - i.e. I immediately consciously thought "there will be a phone call". Instead, he wanted the idea of a phone call to be planted in the audience subconciously - interestingly, it was a *different* phone that actually rang (and btw. also was prominently displayed before the call - but less prominently than the first phone). So the plant was with a different phone, in an attempt to make it subtle. In my case it didn't work - I was onto it immediately, because of the way the camera framed the phone.

    Meanwhile, there are of course plenty of cases where there is intentional telegraphing, but I don't think it's done with the "anticipatory" techniques we're discussing here and are a topic of the OP - those are simply the result of clumsy and hackneyed directing.

    However, the discussion has moved onto a completely different subject from the OP, so I'll refrain from addressing Scorsese and style etc.


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    OldCorpse - let me buy ya an ice cream.


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    Josh, great topic! There are many reasons:

    Experience. How many movies have you seen, and how long have you been studying, practicing, thinking about the craft? You're more likely to predict what happens next than a younger person, and more than a general audience member.

    Maturity. You're probably better able to predict things in real life too, based on body language or the situation, than you were 20 years ago.

    Those reasons have to do with you. There are also reasons having to do with the nature of movies specifically and storytelling in general. I don't know if this stuff is on the rise.

    Efficiency. There is a rule of writing called Checkhov's Gun: don't show a gun unless later in will be used. In general in means nothing should be superfluous. A scene, character, or prop that makes no difference should be cut. With a professional writer, it usually doesn't make it to the final draft. If it makes it to the final draft, it doesn't make the final cut. (Not everyone agrees with this rule, and it can lead to predictability.)

    Drama. The essence of drama is conflict. So if you're stuck in a scene without conflict ("gets home to empty house, checks mail, puts away groceries") you are usually right that it is merely setting up something. In movies, characters are always arguing, more so than real life, it seems. This is because all the scenes of them getting along are useless (see Efficiency, above). It seems that whenever two people are getting along --- for example, a father and son laughing and playing ball --- you can be sure something bad is about to happen: Dad will get killed, the kid will get kidnapped, or both.

    Contrast. Related, if something bad happens (commandos break into the house), it is a much sharper contrast if right beforehand everyone in the house was smiling and laughing. A smile turning into a frown is more dramatic than a blank face turning into a frown. Therefore, whenever everyone is laughing and having a good time, the hairs on the back up my neck start to stand up.

    Foreshadowing. This was a literary device before it was a cinematic one. It's as old as the hills. I'm with you, it didn't make sense to me. Why spoil a surprise by hinting at it? But as I researched it some more, I think it is starting to click. An unforeshadowed surprise would be more surprising, but possibly overall weaker. (1) Foreshadowing first of all builds tension, which can be more powerful than sheer shock. (2) Second, foreshadowing can make an unlikely event more plausible. A lot of movies have things happen that are very unusual --- and for good reason. If it were a movie about everyday things, why would I go see it? But as one article said, the audience should not mainly be saying, "What on earth just happened!" Rather, they should be saying, "Oh that was a nice surprise, and maybe I could have seen it coming." Naturally there's a balance. Foreshadow not at all, and the audience is jolted out of the movie. Too much foreshadowing, and the story gets predictable, like you were saying.
    Last edited by combatentropy; 11-21-2020 at 11:37 PM.


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