James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, March 30, 2009

When nobody speaks up

A year ago I saw Disney's Enchanted on DVD. In the battle with the villain near the end, one supporting character, perhaps on the comically dim side but who you would expect to be courageous and honorable, and who you would have expected to help in the fight, is mysteriously absent. Then, in the happy ending, he appears again.

After watching the movie, we watched the deleted scenes. There, we see that this character had been knocked out cold in the melee, which his why he wasn't part of the dramatic fight.

I'm glad I saw it as a DVD rental; had I seen it in the theater I would have been frustrated. By deleting the scene with no explanation as to what happened to this character, the movie was made much worse. And only about 15 seconds were deleted; it's not as if the movie would would have run too long by including it.

It makes me wonder - who decided to cut this scene? I can't imagine the final edit of any film is the editor's call alone. Didn't the producers and executive producers wonder about this? Or am I the only one in the world?

I came upon an even more frustrating experience with a recent theatrical release. Early in the movie, a little girl disappears on the grounds of the school in daylight hours. Once the teacher notices she's gone, the movie cuts to the next scene, where the teacher along with several cops are in the darkened school building with flashlights. The movie doesn't explain a)why they don't turn on the lights, or b) why they think the girl, who disappeared on the grounds, was in the building. Where I was, a member of the audience couldn't help but burst out, "why don't they turn on the lights?"

I wonder if a) this was originally a far longer sequence, which included explanations why the lights were out and why they thought the girl might be in the building -- all this to be shown when the DVD comes out, or b) the director just thought it would be more suspenseful if the building was dark during the search.

As far as the plot of the movie goes, it doesn't seem to make any difference whether the lights were on or off.

If a), why didn't anyone involved in the editing or final production raise this obvious question about the lights? Why couldn't this film have been edited better? And if b), and this was totally the director's call, why didn't anyone on the set raise questions about the darkened school building? The actress who played the teacher, the assistant director, the cinematographer, anyone? "Mr. Director, won't the audience wonder why the lights are out?"

On the other hand, there've been times while working for others that I've gone ahead and just did what I was told. Whereas, other times, I thought about what I was doing and spoke up to ask questions about how or why we were doing things in a particular way. After all, some days the mood is that we're doing it for the paycheck, and other days and in other moods we step back and question.

And sometimes we do raise questions or objections, and are told the equivalent of "shut up and do what you're told" or "the decision's already been made."

The more often an employer says this to employees, the less likely they will speak up again and will indeed just view their work as a means to a paycheck. And that's when mistakes big and small are made.

And this is why a gang of yes-men is the last thing anyone in power needs. Indeed, it is the last thing any of us need.

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