Cut to black is an editing technique when the storytellers end something right then and there and jump to a big black frame. Whatever comes next, depends upon the storytelling style of the film director.
Cutting to black means the absolute ending to a particular sequence in a movie. For example the ending of the film Memento directed by Christopher Nolan. That movie contains a lot of cut to blacks, but the most crucial cut to black came at the ending of the film when the main character makes a decision and right there the film cuts to black and the end credits roll.
So what was Christopher Nolan trying to signify with this amazing little cut to black? He was trying to tell the audience that this is the ultimate stop for your journey with Leonard, the main of Character of the film and that’s all you need to know about him as far as last impressions are concerned. And we as an audience member understand that Leonard has made the ultimate decision which is going to define the rest of his life. Now I’m not giving away what decision he makes because that would give away the main twist of the movie, so after you read this blog, go watch Memento if you haven’t.
Now how can filmmakers use this cut to black technique in their own films? You gotta make sure you understand the philosophical side of this cut to black technique which is to understand what this technique is connected to.
Cut to black is connected to very last impression you want the audience to leave with about a particular sequence, but be careful to use it several times in your film as it contains the feeling of a reset. It feels like the movie has been reset and begun to play from the beginning which you don’t want in order to not mess with the smooth flow of the story and the narrative.
I mentioned that Christopher Nolan used it several times in Memento, but every time he cut to black, the very next frame contained such a powerful story and one of the greatest characters ever written that it was impossible to look away from the film.
So until and unless you think you’re in line with Christopher Nolan’s talent which is highly unlikely or you’re absolutely sure about if you’re story definitely needs cut to blacks in the middle of the story, I would heavily advice against it which brings me to my final point.
When to use it? The best place and biggest impact the cut to black leaves on the audience is when it’s used right at the ending when a particular action or decision has been made by the main character which defines the whole concept, the theme and the story of the movie.
Cutting to black is a technique which I have seen in a lot of movies, but whether I remember the movie for it or not speaks for the power of the story and the character. The reason I bring up Christopher Nolan again and again and the reason I remember his cut to blacks is that this guy is an absolute master of building up incredible moments. And when these incredible moments cut to black, you’re usually left with a bent mind, inspiring thoughts, aspiration to become a film director yourself and in my case, you’re left with a tear in the eye out of the sheer brilliance and the mastery that Christopher Nolan displays with these traditional and aged techniques.
The thing which I most wish for out of the independent filmmaking world is to give me just one more storyteller who is able to use this cut to black with incredible intelligence which leaves the audiences with open jaws and twisted minds.
On a closing note, I would love to have your thoughts on how mind twisting this cut to black can prove to be. Also, subscribe to my channel so you can stay tuned to more videos every Monday which would help you understand film direction and master the magic of storytelling.
So, in the hopes of connecting with aspiring film directors all over the world, this is Mr. Zeecon, in the making of a great story.
I would love to hear it from you guys in the comments below about your favorite cut to blacks if you have any or if you yourself have ever used it in one of your films with maximum impact?