For many reasons, even good scenes often don’t make it into editing
Editing isn’t just about putting scenes together; It’s about deciding which pieces can stay and which have to go. What directors, editors, and sometimes even screenwriters often discover in post-production is that no matter how much they like a particular scene, or how funny or dramatic it might be, they just don’t have room for it.
“When a movie finds its run length and you see how it’s supposed to be, it spouts out things it doesn’t need to be,” says Tony Kushner, who co-wrote The Fabelmans with director Steven Spielberg. “Often a scene asks a question, and as interesting as the question is, it’s not the question the film asks.”
Here, The Envelope spoke to five directors, editors and a screenwriter from this year’s Oscar-nominated Best Picture submissions to find out what got squeezed onto the cutting room floor — and why.
“Triangle of Sadness”
Ruben Ostlund, writer and director
The facility: Models Carl and Yaya are passengers on a luxury yacht full of wealthy elites doomed to run aground.
Missing moment: Carl presents Yaya with an engagement ring, but Yaya — who has made it clear she’s only dating him to gain followers on social media — argues about the value of the ring.
Why cut? “When you make a film that’s almost two and a half hours long, you’re dealing with the dynamic and the energy of the audience,” Östlund says. “The audience in test screenings told me that it had to work. When I do test screenings, I never ask any questions; I sit with the audience and feel the dynamics of the room. You can tell immediately when they lose focus. The result of the energy in the room shows that it had to go. I love this scene, but I had to kill some of my favorites.”
‘The Banshees of Inisherin’
Mikkel EG Nielsen, editor
The facility: Siblings on an Irish island still live in the tiny cottage they grew up in and share their childhood bedroom. Pádraic is satisfied; Siobhán longs for more.
Missing moment: Siobhán’s crying in bed bothers Pádraic, who asks her to stop because it keeps him awake. When he wakes up again, he asks if she could at least cry a little quieter.
Why cut? Parts of that scene remain in the film, but that particular dialogue had to be cut, says Nielsen. “It’s funny and awkward and relatable, but it didn’t do well for the characters who weren’t already there. There was a seriousness and tone to this section that we thought would be better without it. I really enjoyed the scene, and it was a ridiculous moment – but not one that was needed.”
“The Fable Men”
Tony Kushner, co-writer (with Steven Spielberg)
The facility: Based on director Spielberg’s childhood and awakening to his love of filmmaking.
Missing moment: After young Sammy films a home movie about Christmas, there is a family conference about his anxiety. His grandmothers argue about whether he sees ghosts, and Sammy says he saw his grandfather after he died.
Why cut? Although the scene was shot with Jonathan Hadary as the ghostly grandpa, length became an issue, says Kushner. “It’s an enchanting scene, but it wasn’t necessary. As Steven and I worked on the script, we felt it was important to emphasize Sammy’s fear, but Sammy and the person he’s based on [Spielberg] are not particularly anxious people. We didn’t want to pathologize it. This is kind of an epic story, it travels through 12, 15 years – and to give it momentum we couldn’t afford to dwell on it anywhere.”
Matt Villa and Jonathan Redmond, editors
The facility: On his way to becoming the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley embarks on a seemingly never-ending musical tour while being mentored by the rapacious Col. Tom Parker.
Missing moment: After a call from his wife Priscilla, Elvis turns out to be in bed with a groupie. But he gets paranoid and pulls out his gun, causing the groupie to want to leave. He asks her to stay and tells a story about a thrush that is forever in flight. As she leaves, he cries.
Why cut? Known to editors as “The Bluebird Scene,” certain shots were retained and interspersed elsewhere in the film, but most of the seven-minute sequence as a whole was excised. “It’s an emotional moment when Elvis, one of the most famous people in the world, asks this girl to stay,” says Redmond. “He tells her a story about a bluebird that spends its life on the wing and if it lands, it dies. It was a wonderful performance from Austin [Butler], but ended up pausing the film for seven minutes – it belongs in another version of this film. We had to cut and dice it. We ended up using the Bluebird story towards the end of the film just before you see the headlines that Elvis died.”
‘Nothing new in the West’
Edward Berger, Director
The facility: At the start of World War I, young German soldiers are given their uniforms and sent to the battlefield with dreams of glory on their minds.
Missing moment: In a short scene, after getting their uniforms, the young soldiers march through their German town and sing “Tomorrow We March”.
Why cut? “We didn’t cut much,” says Berger. “We were on a very tight budget and had to be diligent with money, so we tried to cut scenes in the script and not later. But of course it never works that way. It was an expensive scene to shoot this scene. We had to lock down the city of Prague, bring in cars, take out the modern stuff and have 100 kids in uniforms. They sing the song as they leave town about how lucky they are to go to war; hopefully they will come back next year to get married. But we already had the uniform assembled, and it took us nine minutes to meet the hero of the film. Anything that was added felt like extra baggage. They still sing the song in the film – it’s just a lot shorter now.”
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/awards/story/2023-02-20/why-these-scenes-were-cut-from-their-films For many reasons, even good scenes often don’t make it into editing