I used to work in magazines and one of the things I loved about writing for them was that you had a fixed word count.
Being told a piece had to be 350 words long forced you to be economical with your writing and avoid padding out the piece.
TV has a similar restriction placed upon it – making a BBC sitcom means each episode has to be between 25-27 minutes.
On Sunday I went to see the new JK Rowling-penned wizarding extravaganza Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.
It was thoroughly enjoyable, but for one thing: it ran to 133 minutes.
Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but as I left the cinema I immediately began running through the scenes that could have been made shorter – or even completely cut – without detracting from the overall experience.
In other words, it needed a bloody good edit.
In case you think I’ve picked on Fantastic Beasts, you’d be wrong. Captain America: Civil War came in at 147 minutes (23 minutes longer than the 2011 original), while Batman vs Superman topped that by 4 minutes. That’s a bum-numbing 2 hours 31 minutes.
I’m not saying that films, in general, are getting longer, by the way and research backs that myth up.
What I am suggesting, though, is that film-makers need to be a bit less precious about what goes into the story. Much of the time, less is more.
Being restricted has been proven to enhance creativity. Dr Seuss famously wrote Green Eggs & Ham after betting that he couldn’t write a story with fewer than 50 words.
So why can’t directors do the same? In magazines, you have a specific number of pages in which to cram your editorial vision, so features can only be a certain length.
I wish there was – somehow – a way to rein in the lengths of films in a similar way.
One thought on “Hollywood, we have an editing problem”
Paying £18 each for a cinema ticket + £5 for popcorn has to provide value to the customer over waiting for 6 months and buying it for £12 on blu ray and letting everyone watch it on a 55 inch 4K TV.
A 90 minute feature film, no matter how well crafted will seem poor value relative to 3 hours of more explosions, stars on screen and big screen special effects.