Film School: Cross-Cutting

'F for Fake' by Orson Welles (in Every Frame A Painting) 'F for Fake' by Orson Welles (in Every Frame A Painting)

A look at the craft of juggling multiple narratives through careful editing.

Every Frame A Painting looks at an effective technique for more engaging storytelling – parallel stories, or “Meanwhile, back at the ranch…”:

One Story

As South Park‘s Trey Parker advises for good storytelling, each edit point (or when you cut, and to what) shouldn’t simply say “and then”, but rather “but” or “therefore”.

This Guy Edits | Editing Tips
Image via This Guy Edits | Editing Tips

The diagram above comes courtesy of This Guy Edits, who has a bunch of tips for how to put these ideas into practice in your edit – which we look at over here.

Two Stories

Editor John Sturges‘s technique for effective storytelling, as derived from Alfred Hitchcock: “you reach the peak of one [story], you go to the other… when it loses interest, drop it.”

'F for Fake' by Orson Welles (in Every Frame A Painting)
‘F for Fake’ by Orson Welles (in Every Frame A Painting)

Multiple Stories

This technique can scale to include more storylines – but as the complexity grows, so do the number of opportunities to fail. Lessons from the Screenplay examines Christopher Nolan‘s use of cross-cutting – when it works, when it doesn’t, and why: