Thanks For Nothing, You Useless Reptile

With “How to Train You Dragon 2” out, my wife and I pulled out our DVD of the first movie.  After watching it, we watched the deleted scenes.  Since I’m in the process of editing my own script, it occurred to me that the deleted scenes are a good study in rewriting.  Pick your favorite DVD and watch the deleted scenes.  Try to figure out why they were deleted.  The usual reasons are for pace, cutting down screen time, and getting rid of information that’s not needed.

In Dragon 1, there was a scene that changed and shortened.  It was voice recorded and storyboarded, but never made it to the final CGI version.  In it Hiccup is working with Gobber in the blacksmith shop.  It start with some dialogue that was moved to another scene.  Then Gobber starts talking about how Hiccup has a crush on Astrid.  Then Astrid stops by to get her axe sharpened and Gobber pushes them together.  We see that she’s a tough, no nonsense Viking.  While Hiccup sharpens her axe – and has trouble lifting it – she sees his drawings of a dragon net catapult.  By the end, we see that she has no interest in Hiccup and goes off to train with the other young Vikings.

So why was this scene cut?  Let’s look at it.  In the final version of the film, we are introduced to Astrid by Hiccup’s voiceover.  In a dreamy voice he says, “Astrid….”.  That tells us all we need to know about how Hiccup feels about Astrid.  We also see how tough she is.  And finally, in the very next scene, we see Hiccup’s dragon net catapult in action.  There is no need to see the drawings.  It’s all about getting the information to the audience in the most efficient, logical and dramatic way.  Seeing the catapult is more dramatic than seeing drawings of it.

I’m struggling with the same thing in my steampunk script.  I’ve already taken fifteen pages, rewrote it to cut out two scenes and got it down to ten pages.  In the process, I got rid of one character we will never see again and spent more time between my protagonist and her mother, which is where the real conflict is.

There was also a famous deleted scene in the movie ALIENS, one that was actually filmed.  Shortly after Ripley is found in space and revived, Burk brings her information about her daughter.  Ripley left her daughter on Earth when she was six years old, planning to be back in a couple of months.  But then her crew gets killed off by an ALIEN and she gets stuck in suspended animation for over sixty years.  In the meantime, her daughter grows up and dies of old age.  Ripley has completely missed her daughter’s entire life and this leaves her with an unfulfilled maternal instinct.  You can see how this maternal instinct is then transferred to Newt, a little girl they find on the colony planet who is the only survivor of an ALIEN attack.

Personally, I wish they had left the scene in.  But is it really necessary?  No.  Ripley is the only civilian woman on the rescue team.  The rest are hardened Marines.  So it’s understandable that Ripley is the only one who reaches out to Newt in a maternal way.  She and Newt are also the only ones who have survived an ALIEN attack, so they have that in common as well.  So while the deleted scene is moving, it’s not really necessary to the emotional connection Ripley forms with Newt.

Most people see a movie once in the theater, or rent it.  Fans of a film buy the DVD or Blu-Ray.  That’s why the discs have deleted scenes, extended versions and director’s cuts.  Fans want to see more of their favorite characters and they don’t mind if the pace of the movie slows down a bit.

What scenes do you wish would have stayed in your favorite film?  What scene do you need to cut from yours?

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