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How to Edit Pool Party

How to Edit the Pool Party Scene

Pool Party, Story Set Up

Cheese's parents are out of town for the weekend and he decided to throw a pool party (see project).  The trouble is that Cheese isn't the most popular kid at school due to some acne, and the girls notice.

These editing recommendations are based on how dozens of editors have cut the scene. You can watch those cuts in our Cuts Worth Watching Blog.

Cutting Scene 2: Pool Party Montage

The pool party starts with a montage of kids horsing around before we get into a dialog scene between our two main characters, Cheese (nicknamed because of his acne), and Sara, the girl he likes.

(full cut of pool party)

What is a Montage, Story Pillars, and Use of Music:

Montages are notoriously difficult to edit because by definition montages are a mashup of loosely related shots, which need to be assembled in a way that creates one cohesive idea. In other words, the story structure of your montage needs to be discovered in the editing.

The way to start editing a montage is to decide what your story is. We call these ideas story pillars.

The story pillars in the pool party montage are:

  • The kids are having a good time.
  • Cheese is lonely and excluded from the group. 
  • Sara feels bad for Cheese.

Kids horse around

Cheese stands alone

Sara alone

You have to get those story pillars across at all costs, but as long as you do there are lots of right ways to edit the scene. For example, you can use jazz, metal, hip hop, classical, or no music at all. Montage allows you to be very flexible - almost overwhelmingly flexible at times.

You should pick music which best helps express your story pillar ideas.

Montages depend on unrelated shots, which is what makes them tricky to put together. You may need to use editorial techniques like:

  • Jump cuts
  • Split screens
  • Transitions 

You can always expand or compress a montage as long as you do not sacrifice the story pillars. The montage can be 0:15 seconds, or 1:00!

By adding music you are telling your audience “this is not literally happening in real life.” With no music the audience assumes your cuts reflect real life.

Once you have your story pillars and music picked, your montage will have some shape. After that there is a lot of room for artistic expression in your cuts.

Pool Dialog Scene

The story pillars you are trying to get across in the dialog portion of the pool scene are:

  • Sara feels bad for Cheese.
  • Cheese is interested in Sara.

Cheese stands alone

Sara feels bad for cheese

Cheese CU by the pool

These are emotional story pillars. For that reason it’s important you use lots of close ups of Cheese and Sara. It’s ok to use the wide shot where Sara swims up, or swims away, but otherwise you want to be in their close ups.

Cutting Scene 3: Patio Scene

The patio scene is loaded with subtext. Subtext means the underlying story theme. The underlying theme on the patio is that Sara wants Cheese to ask her out, but he lacks the courage.

Kids on porch

How to Use the Mirror Shot

Mirror Shot

The short film from which the Pool Party scene comes from is called Reflection. In several other scenes Cheese’s reflection in mirrors is important to the story. It’s important you use the wide shot through the mirror in the garage at some point during the scene. Since that shot is wide, that would indicate you could use it to establish the scene’s location, or show characters entering or leaving the scene.

It’s ok to use this shot for as long or as little as you feel, as long as you cut out of it before Cheese and Sara start having their close, emotional conversation.

Sarah and Cheese Conversation

Cheese is worried

Sara wanting a request

Whenever you start watching the dailies to a dialog scene ask yourself, what is the purpose of this scene? Then ask yourself, what lines of dialog are the most important in getting that purpose across.

The most important line of dialog on the patio is when Sara says “is there anything else to do?” The subtext here is “do you want to ask me out?” Cheese chickens out.

Because these lines are so important they need to be shown in close ups. Sara’s line should be on screen. Cheese’s reaction should be in a close up too. Extend this moment. You can even play a little game with yourself where you see how long you can make this moment last using reaction shots.

The last shot of the scene should be Cheese sitting there, alone with his thoughts, a coward. That is what the scene is about.

In Conclusion

Cheese by leaf

To make a long story short, the pool party montage can be put together a million ways correctly so long as you tell the story of Sara feeling bad for Cheese while the other kids ignore and ridicule him.

The scene on the balcony should show Cheese chickening out of asking Sara on a date. You achieve this by using lots of close ups.

See how others have cut Pool Party.

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