Hey Editors, This is How You Create an 'OH, F**K' Moment in a Film
"Editing is all about controlling information."
And if you're trying to control information in order to surprise your audience, or build tension and suspense, then you'll want to know some editing techniques that will help you do that. This is the main idea behind this insightful video from RocketJump Film School that details how to achieve what they call "OH, F**K" moments in a film.
Check it out below, and then continue on for some takeaways:
If you weren't able to check out the video, these are some editing techniques that will help you create an "OH, F**K" moment:
It's all about creating tension and building suspense. Essentially, you want to hold back information until the moment is opportune by not cutting. Doing this will cause your audience to build anticipation for whatever's lurking behind the corner, be it a monster, a fateful event, or whatever it is that'll bring your scene (or the whole movie) full circle. Of course, Alfred Hitchcock was an absolute master of this, but there are plenty of other examples of this from other movies. (The video mentions Alien.)
Cut to a close up
Close ups can be some of the most intense and beautiful shots in films, which is why you should really try to use them sparingly. Holding back on cutting to one will only make it more impactful to your audience -- especially if you go from a wide shot to a close up without including a medium shot somewhere in between.
Try to use as many different editing techniques as you can
Different editing techniques communicate different things to your audience, but they all serve to make actions and transitions between scenes more coherent, emotional, or even intense. Using techniques like "match on action", "graphic match", intercutting, or even rhythmic editing will give your audience information in unanticipated ways, which will keep them on their toes.
RocketJump sums it all up quite nicely. They say:
Filmmaking is all about starts and stops -- actions and cuts. A great film largely comes down to how the story is assembled. All in all, find out what the point is, know what story you're trying to tell, and take control of the information you're giving to the audience.
However, keep in mind that editing alone won't create tension and suspense. These moments need to exist in the screenplay, addressed in the direction, and supported in the cinematography. You can learn how to build suspense in ways other than editing here and here and here. (In fact, just watch a bunch of Hitchcock films and take copious notes. You should be good.)
How do you build tension and suspense when you edit? What is your favorite "OH, F**K" moment in a film? Let us know down in the comments!