Dialogue

The dialogue sequence is one of the least imaginatively treated types of sequences, although this has started to change. The editor must understand what is most important in a dialogue sequence. Generally, a director can opt to film a dialogue sequence in a two-shot or in a series of midshots from over the shoulder of each of the participants. Most dialogues proceed as two-character dialogues; occasionally, more than two characters interact in a dialogue sequence. Margo's party for Biull in All About Eve (1950) is a good example of the latter type of dialogue sequence.

The choices, then, are not many. The director might include an establishing shot to set up the sequence or might provide close-ups of the key lines of dialogue for emphasis. Many directors do not include close-ups because if the script is well written, the lines and performances can carry themselves. It's quite another matter if the dialogue is poor. In this case, the sequence will need all the help the director and the editor can provide.

Additional issues for the editor include whether to use more close shots than medium shots and whether to use an objective shot watching a conversation rather than a subjective shot, that is, an over-the-shoulder shot watching the speaker. Should the editor use the reverse shot of the listener? Is variety between listener and speaker possible and advisable? Is a crossover from speaker to listener and then back possible and advisable? These are the types of questions that the editor faces when cutting a dialogue sequence.

The meaning of the dialogue to the story as a whole helps the editor make those decisions. A piece of dialogue that is important for advancing the plot requires a close-up or some shift in the pattern of shots to alert us that what we are hearing is more important than what we've heard earlier in the sequence.

A piece of dialogue that reveals key information about a character calls for a similar strategy. The editor must decide whether the piece of character information or plot information could be conveyed visually. If the point of the dialogue cannot be conveyed visually, editing strategies are critical. If the dialogue can be reinforced visually, editing strategies become unnecessary.

If the dialogue is used to provide comic relief or to mask character intentions, other editing strategies are required. In this case, the reaction of the listener may be more important than watching what is being said.

The editor and the director must always be in accord about the meaning of the sequence, the subtext, or any other interpretation of the dialogue, and they must be able to break down the dialogue sequence in the filming and reconstitute it in the editing to achieve that meaning. Dialogue is not always used in the most obvious manner. The relationship between dialogue and the visualization of the dialogue has broadened and become more interesting.

Film Making

Film Making

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