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Monday, August 07, 2006

Procedure films - an old idea that should come back

I'll tell you what I like in a film - and no scriptwriting book seems to cover it. In fact I've given it a name. If you know of the 'correct' name then let me know. You love these scenes too - but you feel you may have to cut them as you don't know what they are and you get nervous. Well - I've given it a fancy jargon name so you'll be able to label it and make a stand to keep it in. What is it? The procedure scene.

I love a procedure scene.

It's where things happen slowly, deliberately and where the fun is in the whole nerdishness of it. Here is an example.


The launch of a Thunderbird. Do diddy do - they slide down the shoot, they get turned over, the chair slides down, the clamps hold it in place. That's just one Thunderbird! If you need to launch two then it takes twice as long - and we still have the trees to fold down out of the way! Time taken = 45 seconds per launch. Our script editing friends may tell us to "just cut to them in their seats. You don't need to show them getting there." Tell those guys - you are wrong! Its a procedure scene - a scene that is about taking its time and enjoying the method of that way of life. Part nerdy - part exposition - part pacing. Its a scene that really underlines the culture of the society that is featured in the the film. As such it should be considered of equal importance to the 'flash' scene. The flash scene is similar but is about summing up a character through montage - for instance the start of Shaft where the 'sex machine' himself wanders about NY strutting his vitality.



The Andromeda Strain is pretty much a procedure film. This is a film that takes 20 minutes to get 3 people through decontamination. GREAT! Its by the king of procedure Robert Wise (see also Star Trek 1 and The Day the Earth Stood Still).

Another great film - 2001 - full of procedures.

But what happened to these scenes? They seem to have disappeared. Perhaps the only modern equivalent would be heist movies where we spend quite long procedure scenes outling the plan and then following the plan being carried out. But again, nothing seems quite as great as the Mission Impossible TV series.

Are audiences too busy for these kinds of scenes. I hope not. Bring back the procedure!

1 comment:

Joe said...

Aronofsky brought it bang up to date - repeated, stocatto procedure sequences in PI and Requiem drummed in the obsessive nature of the actions.