Solving Problems The Matt Jackson Way

Some times it's better to cut your losses than to try to salvage the inherently flawed.

In my current day job, I work as a Story Producer in reality TV, where I'm in charge of condensing anywhere from four hours to four days of footage into something that's both understandable and concise.  It's a job that would be rife with plenty of challenges all on it's own, but when you start tossing in run-times, local avails, network notes, legal notes, and last minute creative changes, things get infinitely more complex.  Rare is the day that goes by that I don't have to make some crazy decision about trying to satisfy two competing and at-odds notes on any given episode, and I'm forced to make some unpopular choices.

Typically, when in a position like that, I try to examine the spirit of the notes and try to find it's root.  Once you figure out what the source of the problem is, you're faced with the dilemma of exposition or expulsion.  in my opinion, it's almost always the best option to just jettison the thing that's not working, than to spend the extra time and energy to explain why things are the way they are in the scene.

Case in point, this conversation I had with Mike about the finale of the script.  There was a gag about a Totem Pole falling on our heroes that was generally great and I, for the most part, really enjoyed.  However, as we discussed the choreography for the final scene, we found that trying to include that moment just didn't quite work as easily as it did in the earlier drafts.  Hence the dilemma.

We jawed it out for a while, discussion possible permutations of where all the different pieces of the final scene could be, but in the end the best answer to the problem was to cut it entirely.  It's a tough thing to do sometimes - losing those moments you love so much -  but it's very much a necessary evil when it comes to filmmaking.

But tough decisions are what being a director is all about, right?

When in doubt though, I always remember the KISS philosophy (and no, I'm not talking about the awesome band): Keep It Simple, Stupid.  Sure, we could have forced some kind of arbitrary nonsense to make the totem pole gag work, but it would have felt forced and ultimately added unnecessary time thereby hurting the scene as a whole.  Instead, by cutting the gag, we've simplified the actions to allow our characters to be more complex in the scene.  And in the end, that's what's going to make the movie a great one.

Cutting things to keep them simple, now that's problem solving the Matt Jackson way.

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