Filmmaking, from shooting through editing, is a process of expanding and/or collapsing real time. "Filming real life is a constant struggle to distill reality into a meaningful subset of itself, into the telling moments, the telling gestures, the lines of dialogue that will suggest the rest of the scene without actually having to see the rest of the scene," says Steven Ascher. The event needs to be covered with the editor in mind, so that there is enough variety of shots, cutaways, and transitional material to make a creative edit possible.
For the most part, simple editing can imply a passage of time. Your characters are at home, seated around the breakfast table, and then they're on the school basketball court; or your character is trying on a tux for the prom, and then he's at the prom. If the story has been taking place in the summertime, and you cut to children playing in the snow, the season has changed. Sometimes, filmmakers emphasize passage of time with dissolves, time-lapse photography, an interlude with music, or a montage. If the passage of time is part of the story, the filmmaker might comment on that visually. Errol Morris used a clock to mark the hours that passed while Randall Adams was being pressured to confess in The Thin Blue Line.
Some scenes may be granted more or less emotional weight than others through the length of time you devote to them. For example, you might spend two minutes of screen time bringing the audience up to date on 10 years of history prior to a candidate's decision to run for office, and then spend the next 45 minutes on an eight-month campaign; you've collapsed the first part of the chronological story in order to focus more time on the campaign itself. And sometimes you expand time because you've built to an emotional moment and you need to let it play, as was true in at the end of Bridge to Freedom, or the last hour of the first season of the series Eyes on the Prize.
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