The problem with poor pacing, and increasingly overlong television

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Having a more flexible runtime makes sense – generally speaking, the traditional forty-five-ish minute slot for a drama or the twenty-five-ish minute slot for comedy are fairly arbitrary ideas imposed by the demands of advertisers rather than anything else. There’s nothing inherent to the stories that dictate they hold this structure, so the opportunity to be a little bit more malleable and adaptable can be worth pursuing.

Yet it’s debatable whether this approach is really effective, and whether the freedom that’s been allowed has ultimately been a good thing. There’s an argument to be made that, over the past few years, it’s led to a slew of poorly paced television series; slow and plodding, not using their runtime effectively. It’s not so much that a serial has to be filled with incident, but that there’s a sense that not every minute has to be earned in the way that perhaps it used to be – in turn leading to more meandering, more superfluous storytelling.

This article brought to you by the hour I spent watching the first episode of Seven Seconds, though could just have easily been brought to you by the interminable thirteen hours spent on Jessica Jones series 2.

A while ago, I changed up my approach with how I write about television; I decided, basically, that I was only going to write about a show when I’d seen the entire thing. Just a different way of looking at it, taking the series more holistically basically, and a way to stop myself getting too complacent – after a while, I figure I’ll probably switch it up again.

But anyway, this led to a lot of Netflix binge-watching, which was always frustrating – with the above Seven Seconds, ten episodes totalled around eleven hours entirely (there was one episode which was seventy-five minutes long, which is pretty much never necessary) and it worked out that if I watched all ten episodes, then spent another three hours or so writing an article on the show, my final pay would work out as less than minimum wage. Which I was not wholly impressed by. So I wrote this article about why TV episodes are too long instead. Though admittedly I’d probably mind less if I was paid more. So, you know.

(Some months later, a more well established TV critic, the name of whom escapes me, wrote something similar titled something to the effect of “overly long episodes are the TV equivalent of manspreading”, which is a much better title than mine. Made me laugh, anyway.)

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Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett on the sound of Blade Runner 2049, their creative process and more

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When we work on a film, and Ron can speak on this, we’re always responding to the audience in the moment, as you do when you watch a movie as audiences do. We were marinated, so to speak, in the original Blade Runner but each thing was new. We approached each day, each scene, as a new thing.

Another interview I was very pleased with here – Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett, sound mixers on Blade Runner 2049. Very funny guys, they have some good jokes in here.

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Mark Mangini on Blade Runner 2049, the importance of sound design, and more

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I think another interesting metaphor, which maybe the public could more easily understand – they may not understand what a cinematographer does – but sounds are to sound designers as words are to a writer. A writer uses as their simplest tool, words, to build sentences to build paragraphs to build chapters to build scenes to build scripts. Every single word in the screenplay or a novel is chosen for a reason. There’s no misplaced word. There’s no word that isn’t there for a reason. Writers sweat over words like sound designers sweat over sound.

In that regard, we choose our palette of sounds and the order of those sounds and the way that it presents it to the audience; in the same way that the writer chooses their words and builds them to coherent sentences and lines of dialogue and soliloquies, so too does the sound designer with sound. I think that might be a helpful way of understanding the kind of effort that goes into creating the soundtrack to a movie.

One of my favourite interviews I’ve ever done, this. I spoke to Mark (pictured here at 19, working for Hanna Barbera) for around an hour, I think it would have been, and I had a great time. He said some genuinely interesting things about his creative process and way of working that I think are going to stay with me for a long time – I’m not especially musically inclined, but a lot of what he said rang true with me, and I’m going to want to steal some of his ideas for a long time to come.

But that aside, Mark was just really lovely to talk to – it’s always nice to listen to someone who’s enthusiastic and passionate about their work, and that’s something that was especially true of Mark. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed conducting it!

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