In this chapter, we take a look at editing action. When you think of an action scene, you may think of car chases
and fistfights, but for our purposes, action is simply any scene that features a character involved in some kind of
activity. This can be anything from a secret agent involved in a high-octane car chase to a hapless chef attempting
to bake a cake. Unlike dialogue scenes, which usually employ similar coverage, action scenes are constructed
from different types of shots that are unique to the activity that is being carried out in the scene. Even though
each action scene is distinct and individual, the focus is always on the character attempting to execute the activity
and whether that character will achieve what she has set out to do. This character objective is inherent to all ac-
tion scenes, and it's what you work with as an editor to escalate suspense and tension by making it seem unlikely
that the character will attain her goal.
The Staircase Sequence
In this chapter, we'll work on the staircase sequence from Pranks. This sequence concerns Katie's attempts to
snap a photograph of Jason so that she can prove to Joyce that there has been someone else in the house playing
tricks on her. The sequence is made up of scenes 12, 14, 15, and 16. Scene 13 was a short scene that featured
Katie peeking into Joyce's bedroom to check that she is sleeping and was dropped from the final film.
Before we begin to work on this sequence let's break it down into four smaller sections:
• Scene 12 - INT. KATIE'S ROOM - NIGHT: Katie is awakened by the sound of a ball bouncing re-
peatedly against the wall. Katie slips out of bed, grabs the camera, and goes in pursuit of the culprit with the
objective of obtaining photographic evidence that she can show Joyce.
• Scene 14 - INT. STAIRCASE (SECOND LEVEL) - NIGHT: Katie creeps along the top landing looking
for Jason. She sits at the top of the stairs, winds her camera, and waits for Jason's reappearance. The sound of
the bouncing ball alerts Katie to Jason's presence at the bottom of the staircase, and she carefully poises her-
self to take the photo. Jason runs off and Katie chases down the stairs after him.
• Scene 15 - INT. THE LANDING (FIRST LEVEL) - NIGHT: Katie sneaks along the bottom landing and
is clearly starting to enjoy this cat-and-mouse game with Jason.
• Scene 16 - INT. STAIRCASE (FIRST LEVEL) - NIGHT: Katie ducks down behind the stairs and
giggles to herself as she watches Jason, demonstrating that she may be finally coming out of a shell and be
more willing to play with others.
The remainder of this chapter walks you through Scenes 12 and 14 of this sequence, leaving Scene 15 and 16 for
you to try for yourself.