“The Heat” and “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig on editing the improvised scenes in a movie

New York magazine’s Vulture section recently started a series, “How To Make A Movie,” with plenty of noteworthy, well, how-to information for you filmmaking fans.

On Tuesday, director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) offered five lessons to live by if you decide to include a lot of ad-libbing and improvisation that goes off the original shooting script.

They are:

  1. Every Joke Must Serve the Story
  2. Test It With Real People
  3. Know When to Pull Back
  4. Play Detective
  5. Sometimes It’s Better to Be Less Funny

Wait. What’s that last lesson, again? Be less funny? As Feig explains: “When it gets too silly, it’s another chance for the audience to lose interest, and when people get bored or start shifting around or their minds start wandering, that’s not good. That’s why you’ve got to be so hard on this stuff, but also let it breathe. It’s a weird math. You just keep working on it.”

Which brings you back to lesson #1: Story comes first. “The simple rule I use is to just tell the story effectively, and everything in the editing room is in service of that. When you’re selecting which take to use, the biggest thing is that no joke can overtake the story and no joke can subvert a scene.”

Read all of Feig’s lessons on “How to Edit an Improv-Heavy Comedy” via Vulture.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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