Monday, April 14, 2008

On Killing Your Babies...

I was talking with a director friend last night about writing and directing and all that, and it turned out we both had experienced the same odd epiphany over the years. Somehow, it always seems like that one bit that is your absolute favorite moment in a script (or, in his case, a first cut) is inevitably the one that you have to drop, sooner or later.

It really is true. In almost every Battlestar that I've done, I've hatched some curious turn on a phrase or quirky twist on a scene that gives ME no end of pleasure, but ultimately ends up being cut before shooting, cut during shooting or left lying fallow on the cutting room floor.

Now, anyone who writes television or film for a living develops a pretty thick skin when it comes to making changes and/or cuts; there just isn't time to be precious, especially when you're shooting. Just last week, because occasionally scenes will take more time to shoot than you originally imagined, I had a lose a (short) sequence on the fly and rejigger another to cover for the missing plot information. (Trust me, you'll never miss it.) That is the business of production and it happens every day.

But this is different. Why do our favorites, "our babies", always seem to perish on the road to production? I'm beginning to think it's because they are so "personal", in the "this works for me, but only because of my own individual attitude/sense of humor/political slant" sense, and not because the moment is essential to telling the story. I'd like to think I'm "professional" enough not to bend a story like a pretzel just to hold on to one quirky moment. But the truth is, when you step back and take a clear-eyed, dispassionate look at many of these moments, you often realize, huh. We really didn't need that, did we?

That said, as I get all contradictory on your ass, sometimes you DO need those idiosyncratic moments. I remember watching a cut of an upcoming BSG episode where what I thought was an absolute critical, crux emotional moment of the story had somehow fallen out of an early cut. In that case I lobbied for its return, and the scene DID make it in. (When that episode airs, I'll try to point out the scene...) I guess it's all part of what makes this racket so darn interesting...