The director looked at me and said, "This is perfect! I need this shot in my movie."
"What?" I looked down at the blue angel candle that sat on the desk. As students, we were using someone's bedroom for our scene. The candle just happened to be part of the room's natural decor. "What does that have to do with this scene?"
He paused. I could see the wheels turning. He threw out some philosophical justification. I shot it down. He gave me another reason. I countered. Finally, he threw up his hands and said, "Just get the shot. I like it so it's going in the movie."
When we got back to the scene in editing the director said, "I know you hate that shot, Luke. But I like it. So leave it."
If I had been reading this blog back then, I think I would have urged that we replace the few seconds of pointless angel candle with an establishing shot of the house.
Years later, after we had made several other films together, the director sat down next to me on set. "You know that angel candle? I should have listened to you," he said.
Unnecessary shots are a huge problem in student films. They look nice. They're super cool. You paid a ton of money to get them. You're fixated on them. They have the highest production value of your entire flick...
No matter the reason, you must learn to "kill your babies." The vicious nature of great directors has always impressed me. Watching behind the scenes clips and deleted scenes is a great way to see how a director--despite his love or passion for a scene--will axe it when it doesn't belong in his movie.
Next time you're tempted to include a shot that you love, try cutting it out of your movie and ask yourself: Is my story suffering? Is my audience going to miss this shot? If they answer is no, stop being a student filmmaker and join the world of great directors who put the story before their personal preferences.
Your Media Production Mentor