A few years ago my wife and I took a walking food tour of NoLita in New York City. At one point our guide, the inimitable Paulette Goto, pointed out an apartment on the top floor of this building. From this perch, a young Martin Scorsese watched the goings-on in his neighborhood. What he saw influenced his films.
Editing is probably even more important in film-making than it is in writing (which explains why Scorsese has collaborated with editor Thelma Schoonmaker for more than 50 years). In an interview, Scorsese said something about editing that has stuck with me as a writer:
A cut can tell part of the story.
I think of it as an express bus. You don’t have to go from A to B to C. A good cut can take you from A to C. I use this technique all the time. It’s useful for eliminating a bunch of unnecessary text, as in the cut between the third and fourth paragraphs below, taken from my novella, The Check:
They had met in high school. He was the only boy in the Food Science class. The desks were doubles, so that two students sat beside each other. Her last name was Veraldi; his Zaratti. Thus, their first meeting was alphabetically ordained.
She was beautiful. He was short. One day as they were leaving class a football player named Sammy Kirkland picked Carlo up by the shirtfront and slammed him against a locker. He taunted Carlo in an effort to impress Mali. “You like wearing an apron, gay boy?”
Carlo looked at Sammy calmly, even as his feet dangled. “I sit next to Mali in a cooking class with twenty-one girls. You share a sweaty locker room with forty-two naked guys. Which one of us is more likely to be gay?”
Mali helped him find some ice for his black eye. Then they walked home from school together. Although his family’s apartment was in the other direction, for Carlo there was no turning back. He was determined to win Mali over.