Stories, Parables & Movie Scripts: Eliminate Olibagtory Scenes

Stories, Parables & Movie Scripts:

Eliminate Obligatory Scenes

Excerpt from  How To Succeed In Hollywood (Without Losing Your Soul) By Dr. Ted Baehr, Publisher

Alfred Hitchcock, one of the great directors, once said the key to a successful movie often is getting rid of obligatory scenes. He illustrated that he had in his mind a scene at a ski area where Cary Grant runs into Audrey Hepburn. The movie failed at the box office. Looking back, he said the obligatory scene stopped the action, created the plot hole and disconnected the audience. Sometimes, of course, you need an obligatory scene, but Hitchcock in the days of real filmmaking and real editing said cut out the scene and see if the movie gets better or even still works. If it does, then you don’t need that obligatory scene.

Faith-based filmmakers and all Hollywood filmmakers need to remember Alfred Hitchcock on this point. Many movies would be much better if tightened and edited to remove the obligatory scene or scenes.

For instance, the new $140 million Netflix movie THE OUTLAW KING about Robert the Bruce has a completely irrelevant nude sex scene that stops the plot and the action and removes the viewer from the story. Clearly, the director thought this was his obligatory GAME OF THRONES scene. However, without it, he would have had a good PG-1`3 action movie that’s better than most historical epics.

Of course, it’s not just Hollywood, but also faith-based filmmakers who often forget to eliminate obligatory scenes.

Movies are motion pictures, so the rule is to show, not tell, but all too often, in the midst of a nice dramatic moment, a sermon or a speech stops the action and doesn’t further the cause.

For instance, one of the best pro-life movies ever was THE BOSS BABY and it didn’t have one obligatory scene, but it told the story that God creates babies, Jesus is the Boss and Satan is trying to stop people from having babies.

Of course, the problem is that movies are often “works of art”, and we want them to be decked out exactly as we imagine. HAMLET addresses this in the play within the play, where Hamlet tells actors not to gesticulate and playwrights not to lecture but rather to mimic nature, to be natural and to be real.

Certainly, most of the faith-based movies this year would have been better if they had been trimmed by 10 to 20 minutes. Whether we can get the filmmakers to understand the value of editing is a critical question. If they don’t, then their movies are going to continue to falter at the box office.


Editor’s Note: If you want to read more about the keys to successful filmmaking, please read: How To Succeed In Hollywood (Without Losing Your Soul)

To be continued…