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Published on October 10th, 2010 | by rubyskyepi

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Fine Cut

Ruby SkyeWhen we first began editing the episodes of Ruby Skye P.I.: The Spam Scam we had to make some style calls.  There are some among us who argued that the way to win a young audience was with breakneck pacing and MTV style editing.  There was a second faction who felt that would be sacrificing content for style.

The stakes are high.  We need an audience.  We’ve thrown ourselves into this project heart and soul – because we love the story and the character of Ruby but also because we want this project to be a model for a new way of creating entertainment.  This project is a prototype for entertainment properties that are controlled by creators every step of the way.  But that way has to lead – eventually, at least — to money.   Creative freedom is a wonderful thing but the rent must still be paid.

Money follows audience.  If we can build an audience for Ruby Skye P.I., we’re pretty sure we can raise money for more episodes and new projects.  And other creators can follow the model to do the same.

But we’ve got to get an audience.  Of kids.

Adult viewers will be great too.  Please, watch our videos often, especially when you’re in cafes and airports and using other people’s computers because clicks from different IP addresses are especially lovely.

But views by kids – children, tweens, teens and families – are the ones that will prove the success of this project.

So the discussion about how to best attract young viewers was crucial to us.

There’s one school of thought that kids have grown used to intense, fast-paced entertainment thanks to Sesame Street, MTV, videogames and the like.  Sometimes the fact that YouTube videos are so short gets mixed into this argument – leading people to think that if you don’t grab your audience in the first couple of seconds and get out in less than three minutes all is lost.

There are merits to some of these ideas.  I do think it’s important to pump entertainment value into every second and not to waste time.  But I reject the view of kids that underlies some of this.  I don’t think kids have short attention spans and I don’t think you have to use visual trickery them to get their interest.  If you give them some quality, they’ll give you their attention in return – and for a long time.  If it’s a great story experience.

What’s my evidence that this is true? Two words: Harry Potter.

Harry Potter volumesShort attention span?  Excuse me.  Seven fat volumes.  And kids didn’t say, I can’t read this whole thing.  They said, yay, that book’s going to last a good long time.  Then they tore through the entire 600 pages in a weekend and turned the book over and started again from the beginning, this savouring every word.

If Harry Potter teaches us anything about kids it’s that they are smart and they know what’s good.  You don’t have to dumb anything down to entertainment them.  In fact, the smarter and deeper the story is, the more they seem to like it.

Which is why when it came down to it, we did not adopt rock’n’roll editing techniques for The Spam Scam.  We’ve shot something that’s quite beautiful to look at.  It has some terrific performances.  So instead of using an editing style that was mostly designed to trick you into thinking that something was happening, we chose one that we felt suited the story; a style that helps us tell the tale.

Like many of the other difficult choices we’ve faced along the Ruby Skye P.I. road, this one was solved by reminding ourselves to respect our audience and by letting the needs of the story be the determining factor.

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3 Responses to Fine Cut

  1. Mark says:

    Well put Jill. The story demands that the style follows it and not the other way around. A mystery film asks for the audience’s attention by making them wonder what is going to happen next (as do all good stories). This is where the audience finds it’s interest (great characters help too!). Fail to engage them in wanting to see what happens next will make them tune out quickly. They have to be invested in the story and the characters. Fancy editing is just a crutch and doesn’t do anything for the story unless the story demands it (or you’re trying to create a counterpoint to your story).

    I suppose the difficulty for writing for teens is that we aren’t teens anymore. You really do have to have a sense of what is important in their world and to treat it with the same respect and maturity as you would adult stories. This is what made John Hughes so successful in the eighties, he had his finger on the pulse of the young audience and didn’t belittle what was important to them.

    I do love the edit suite… so much fun!

  2. Cathleen says:

    Not sure why this would be an issue. Pacing/style and content are not mutually exclusive. Consider the target audience’s absorption rate.

  3. rubyskyepi says:

    True. But content shouldn’t be sacrificed for style and pacing.

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