Shooting drama ~ overlapping action


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Shooting drama ~ overlapping action

Nothing makes the blood pressure of a film editor fly      off the scale more than directors who do not ‘overlap’ the action. It is essential for any film maker who wants to  make their film appear seamless.

Americans in England -extract -screen test

This extract is taken from a script ‘Americans in England’.  In this scene Mary arrives for a meeting to confront Tony about information he may have regarding what happened to her father.

Here is the first shot for the sequence


Here is a reverse angle of the car approaching


Those two shots are all we need to set up the scene. Notice how on the first shot we let Mary stop the car, open the door and then walk to Tony before we ‘cut’.

On the second shot we repeat the whole action of Mary driving into the yard. Again we let her get out of the car and walk to Tony and start the dialogue.This is called ‘overlapping the action’.

If we had cut the camera with Mary not getting out of the car it would have made for a very static edit. As you will see in the edit below it allowed us to have a smooth cut on her move as she gets out of the vehicle. In the videos below you can see two ways of cutting the same shots.

1 – the ‘action cut’ is when Mary steps out of the car


2 – the action cut is on the moving car


Both edits work. It is down to personal choice as to which you prefer.

Which cut you use would depend on what happened in the previous scene, whether you are cutting off a moving shot, close/wide shot or a tracking shot.


Credits: Mary – Billie Bacall Tony – Glen Conroy Director of Photography – Paul Bernard


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