You've just finished boarding your story. Step back and look at it as a whole. Is your story playing slow? does it take to long to start or get to the point? Is the audience missing some of the story points you were trying to make?

Let's take a look at your pacing. Pacing is your timing. It adds variety to your story. If you were to run at a constant speed it will get monotonous. If you vary it your jog becomes more interesting. Same thing with your story. As your story intensifies, your cutting may get faster or slower depending on how you want to play it.

Here's two examples of different pacing for the same idea:




Here we create a contrasted pacing. We make the audience wait for something to happen.




In this version it feels faster because the man is watching the mailman.


Pacing applies to more than just cutting. In a funny sequence, your gags need to build on each other. Each joke gets funnier than the last. In Bully for Bugs, Chuck Jones uses Carl Stallings take on the Blue Danube Waltz (starting at 0:44) for his pacing. It's the same slap gag repeated. The bulls reaction is what makes it funnier with each repetition.

Of course, cutting style also depends on what the director dictates.

Let's look at the opening of the Incredibles:


It starts off with a police siren zooming out to a machine gun being cocked then a full on gun battle from moving vehicles. The pacing slows down to a nice tuxedoed man listening to a report about the gun battle on the radio. The pacing intensifies and subsides as the scene goes on. 

This gives the audience time to catch their breath between the action and saves them from action fatigue.

Pacing is also knowing when to cut out of a scene or when to start a scene.  Typically you'll want to start the scene in where the story is. Don't linger on unnecesary information. When the scene is over, CUT! Letting a scene play out past its story point bores an audience. 



In Moana, the coconut pirates show up and take the heart from Moana. She gets it right back and the movie continues with the coconut pirates never to be seen again. What was the purpose of this scene? to show Maui how capable Moana is? to get him shot in the butt so he is forced to show Moana how to sail? to show the audience what a wimp Maui is by giving up and running from the coconuts?  Maybe all of those, maybe not. Overall, this scene killed the pacing of the movie for me. We had to stop for a spectacle then continue on our way. At least have the pirates get away with the heart and come into play later.

Make sure your story points keep the story alive.

Building Momentum

In the Sixth Sense, we didn't learn until the end of the movie that Dr. Crowe is dead. It works pretty well. Shyamalan builds a story around this important story bit to a nice reveal at the end. If you knew this up front, the movie wouldn't hold your attention as well.


Is there information you are giving out too soon in your story? Pace your information, tease the audience, don't let them know what you are up to till you can create a moment.

Look at the pacing in this scene from The Graduate. Starting at 1:28 Benjamin tells Elaine about the 'older woman'. We already know who the older woman is, that's not the point of this scene. We want to see how this information will be revealed to Mrs. Robinson's daughter, Elaine. The suspense is in how she will react. Mrs. Robinson is trying to stop Benjamin from telling her. 

Ben comes bursting into the scene. Elaine is calm, confused by what Ben is up to. She thinks it's a joke. The real mastery in the scene is the character staging when Mrs. Robinson appears behind Elaine.

Both Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson are wet – tying them together. As Elaine turns to look at her mom the camera loses focus on her. As she comes back into focus it dawns on her who Benjamin is talking about. Very metaphoric. The scene is set up so well there is no need to cut away to Mrs. Robinson.



Slow vs Fast

This is a take on the tortoise and the hare. A slow character and a fast character going for the same goal. Use pacing to emphasize how each character operates.

If you need specifics try this:

A fast moving, slow thinking matador is fighting a slow moving, fast thinking bull.


A hit man (slow, methodical) is out to hit his target (fast, frantic).


Bird vs Worm. The worm has been out partying all night and on his way home, the bird is up early looking for a meal.


Random Storyboard

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