I remember with the advent of DVD’s how exciting it was to get special features along with your movie. In the world of VHS or the theater, you never had the chance to get all that juicy information, to see what happened behind the scenes on set, to hear the creators talk about their work. Back then, the top of the heap for me, though, was delete scenes, those snippets of the movie that never actually made it to air. Whenever I watched a movie on DVD, I would religiously work my way through the delete scenes.
Over time, though, a strange thing happened. Although I still watched the delete scenes, I found myself becoming less and less interested in them. At first I thought maybe it was the lack of post-production–no music, grainy pictures sometimes, little editing. But that didn’t explain why these extras, these tidbits I had always looked forward to were leaving me less than fulfilled
The reason came clear to me just a couple weeks ago, though. The answer stems from a recent trend in my thoughts about writing. I’ve been working on determining what the core of my novel is, paring down what I’ve written so that everything on the page supports and builds on that central arc. In the process I’ve dumped probably 200 pages worth of material as either unnecessary or so far off the mark that it’s easier to rewrite it from scratch than to rehabilitate it in place.
And that’s the problem with the deleted scenes for movies–there’s a reason they ended up being removed from the film. If you listen to the commentary, often it’s because the pacing just wasn’t right, or the information is already conveyed elsewhere, or the scene didn’t quite gel. Like my discarded pages, the filmmaker discovered that these pieces weren’t necessary for the story, so they stripped them out, only to return them to a half-life in the “special” features for the DVD.
A good story stands on its own. No amount of deleted scenes and creator commentary can change that fact.