Snippety snip

There’s a point during the scriptwriting process when the film has been rewritten until the story is intriguing, exciting, makes sense and grips you; the dialogue is polished, witty and distinctive; the characters are motivated and interesting … in short, there comes a point in the script’s life when it’s as good as it’s ever going to get.

Sadly this rarely seems to be the point at which filming starts.

Instead, this is the point at which the real world gets involved.

If you’re lucky, the real world won’t involve the producer casting Bob as the lead. Because Bob loves the script but he would like to make a few little tweaks. Like:

Instead of Churchill being a fat guy who works in government … what if he was a spaceman who invents a new type of toilet?!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Um … yes … you do know Churchill was a real person, right?

Doesn’t matter, this is a film, not reality. We can make Churchill whoever Bob wants him to be because Bob has a great box office profile. He’s been in 5 of the top 100 movies of all time. Not as the lead and rarely even as an actor; but he’s been involved in the films in some way and is therefore essential to getting pre-sales for this project.

Let’s be honest, no one gives a fuck if Bob’s in the film or not and it’s certainly not worth rewriting the entire fucking thing for him because, well, you see, Bob is fucking mental. I can also guarantee he’s one of those actors who will demand a private jet the day before the shoot starts and will deliberately fuck up the wide shots so you have to use his close ups in every fucking scene.

There are a lot of Bobs in the acting world.

But even if you successfully avoid the Bob trap, there’s still a myriad of tiny, seemingly inconsequential changes which can add up to a massive pile of shit.

Cameos, for example.

Bob wants to play the corpse. He loves the script, but we need to give him a line.

You want to give the corpse a line?

Yup, just one. Just so he thinks it’s a proper part.

A proper part as a talking corpse? Hoping to win an Oscar, is he?

And this is where you need to understand the concept of snippety-snip. Snippety-snip dialogue is a line inserted to appease someone without altering the rest of the scene. Usually placed at the beginning or end of a scene, it can be whatever the hell you like since its entire purpose is to get people to shut up long enough to film the fucking thing.

Stella wants to play the Viking Queen, but only if she can fire a really big gun.

Fine. Once the scene is completely over, the Viking Queen can pick up and fire a really big gun. Whatever.

If you’re really clever (which I’m not) you can insert whole blocks of snippety-snip dialogue into the middle of a scene and make sure the line immediately before matches up perfectly with the line immediately afterwards. One snip in the edit and sanity is restored.

Snippety-snip can apply to dialogue, scenes, sequences, even complete characters:

Bob will only do the part if Stella can play his wife.

Jesus didn’t have a wife. Oh fuck it, fine. I’ll write in a snippety-snip wife.

Sometimes the producer and the director hate each other and have pegged the script as their battleground. Each one wants their ideas in the script at the expense of the other person’s and none of the ideas make any fucking sense.


If the director insists on a certain line/scene and the producer is gearing up for a film-ending argument (or vice versa) … just explain the snippety-snip process to the reasonable party and write the scene. Just because you shoot something doesn’t mean it has to go in the finished film – it can easily be removed in the edit.


It’s like giving an idiot a brick to paint so they don’t scribble a cock on your freshly painted wall. The brick is never intended to be part of the wall, it’s just there to amuse the moronic.

If you’re really good at snippety-snip, you’ll never ever have to mention to anyone which bits are snippety-snippable. Hopefully, in the edit, they’ll automatically cut the bits that don’t go anywhere/belong/make any fucking sense whatsoever. I find best practice is to make the snippety-snip bits cheap and a bit shit … but not too shit, or you’ll get fired yourself.

There are only two small problems with snippety-snip:

  1. The person who knows that bit is meant to be cut out might get fired before the film is finished. This may leave in charge the person who thought copying verbatim a twenty minute sequence from Pulp Fiction would go unnoticed. If that happens, there’s a very strong possibility the resulting film will be a big pile of shit full of stuff which was never meant to be there.
  2. If someone outside the production gets hold of the final shooting script – they’ll think it’s your fault that at least 20% of it makes no fucking sense.

Either way, you’re playing a game which could result in you looking like a bad writer. Of course, if like me you’re already sub-mediocre then it doesn’t really matter.

Snippety-snip: in the right hands, it’s a great tool to ensure the project actually reaches production and does so without you getting fired; in the wrong hands, it’s a negative publicity for the rest of your career.

Categories: My Way, Random Witterings | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Snippety snip

  1. This may be the single best piece of practical writing advice I have ever read.

  2. Oh, to be at the point of having to accommodate talentless actors and bigheaded producers! *Crosses fingers and wishes on a star* I WILL be a screenwriter, I WILL!

  3. Hello Phill,

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  4. Yep, I’ve done it on set for several actors that wouldn’t leave me alone about adding a scene. Its a good way to keep order on set when someone is a bossy bitch (also goes for guys) and always gets cut in editing

  5. Pingback: It’s not(e) the end … « The Jobbing Scriptwriter

  6. Pingback: 2011 « The Jobbing Scriptwriter

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