To start off you may be asking what does enter late, exit early actually mean, and how does it apply to writing?
According to Syd Field, the Guru of Screenwriting, a scene should begin at the latest point possible and end before things get boring, drawn out, and redundant.
To be honest, on the surface this seems to be logical and a technique that every writer , director, editor, etc. would want to do.
I mean who wants to hear that their show (film, television) was boring or that audience members lost interest, and this is my current struggle with the industry in my home country.
There seems to be a love for drawn out over-the-top exaggerated melodrama.
Yes, all of those.
I constantly find myself screaming at the screen — why am I still in this scene? Where was the editor? Where was the director? Why is this scene still going when the core of the scene ended two minutes earlier?
At first, I thought that maybe it is because I am part of an attention deficit disorder society, or maybe I just like faster paced shows, but I knew the latter wasn’t the case seeing as to how I love slow-burn narratives (stories that take their time to tell the tale and are infused with detail and character growth) and the former — well isn’t everybody a little ADD?
One of the series I rather enjoy, The Son on AMC, is quite slow paced but still applies the enter late, leave early technique.
The entire series of Battlestar Galactica also let the material and storyline simmer and build to its boiling point.
I have seen many films like, Slow West and Ex Machina, that are also slow-paced, and yet continue to move the story forward by applying this technique.
Pace is not the issue.
Moving the story forward is.
If I spend the first ten minutes of a forty-five minute television episode watching a character running terrified in a forest with no explanation, or watch a grieving mother screaming and cry for Gods-know-how-long — any audience member will get bored, tired and simply put changing the channel.
If I, as a screenwriter, am asking any viewer to give me their time and attention, I will be making sure that their reaction won’t be that I wasted any of their precious seconds.
Surely, there are a myriad of ways I could show that and still allow the story to move forward.
Syd Field also gives screen writers another rule: ‘A scene has two purposes — the first is to move the story forward and the second is to reveal new information about the character. If the scene you are writing does neither, it does not belong in your screenplay.’
I, personally, believe in this rule with all my writer’s heart.
There is another aspect of this that is slowly becoming a major issue, especially in my home country.
For some odd reason, writers, directors, producers, and heck even actors, don’t seem to trust the viewers at all.
In their minds, the Lebanese demographic that watches Lebanese series, are the elderly who live in the villages in the mountains, or even those who are middle class, and those viewers aren’t ‘smart enough’ to follow a speedy or high concept story.
Personally, I find that accusation insulting to the viewers, and ignorant of the industry.
The Lebanese demographic that the industry claims to be lacking intellectually watches Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Westworld, The Handmaid’s Tale, La Casa De Papel, House of Cards, and the list could go on.
Those lacking in intellect are simply realizing that what the networks in Lebanon are offering them is downgrading their intellect.
And with that statement I realize that it is time to exit and end the scene before I overstay my welcome.
So as a final note for any new or practicing writers, when writing a screenplay or a teleplay, don’t allow your scene to overstay its welcome.
Enter Late, Exit Early, and trust in your viewers, for without them your stories would never be seen.
Originally published at alanmehanna.com.