How To Avoid Cheesy Reenactments When You Missed The Moment

Whether you simply missed the shot, or you're creating a film that has a series of moments that have already happened, it's a frequent place for the filmmaker to find themselves in.

You need to cover something that's already happened.

Cue the flashbacks to late night television. The heavy gaussian blur, some shaky camera, and the deep male voice that walks us through what happened late one night. 

This example is extreme, however, it is how most recreations end up feeling. Hella cheesy. 

When you take a moment to think about why, you'll find a rather simple explanation. 

Most of the time, the people in your films – such as the hipster owner of the coffee shop, the excited bride, or the zany scientist – are real people.

In other words, they are not actors. And when we treat them like actors, telling them what to do (and how to do it), it can get cheesy real fast.

Here are four clever ways you can cover those moments that you've missed.

1. Look for found footage that relates to the moment.

Okay, let's get the easy one out of the way first.

One of the most powerful ways to cover a plot point in your story that's already happened is to look for found footage. Try to find YouTube clips, home videos, and other media that might exist which could relate to what you're trying to say.

Here's how one of our film crews applied this idea.

As part of our first Muse Film School, Team New York was telling the story of a drug kingpin who went from selling millions of dollars worth of drugs to being a fitness entrepreneur.

Their character now runs Conbody gym, a series of fitness outlets that have prison-style workouts. Naturally, they wanted to tell the story of how he went from the street to the gym.

One key moment in his journey was a pitch on a Shark-Tank style show focused on investing in convicts.

Finding the footage of their character actually doing the pitch was a powerful way to convey this plot point in their film. 

Here's how it turned out.

2. Consider what objects could be used to help convey the moment.

Objects are one of the most underutilized elements for the filmmaker. We often feel like we need to see people doing things in order for it to be interesting, but objects can convey so much about a person.

Imagine walking into someone's bedroom and having just moments to form an opinion about them. Nobody else is there, it's just you and their objects. You're asked to spend a few minutes in their bedroom and use that to develop an opinion of who they are.

You may be familiar with Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink in which he cited this study because of the remarkable results.

People could rather quickly, and consistently, come up with an accurate description of the personality of the person who lived in that bedroom.

Why? Because objects say so much about us. To the filmmaker, objects are powerful symbols that you can put to work within your stories. 

An animal resting or passing by leaves crushed grass, footprints, and perhaps droppings, but a human occupying a room for one night prints his character, his biography, his recent history, and sometimes his future plans and hopes. I further believe that personality seeps into walls and is slowly released. . . . As I sat in this unmade room, Lonesome Harry began to take shape and dimension. I could feel that recently departed guest in the bits and pieces of himself he had left
behind.
— John Steinbeck, Travels With Charlie

Here's how Team San Francisco applied this idea.

3. Look for a similar scene that's part of their daily routine.

While we want to avoid asking non-actors to try and act, a huge opportunity that most of us miss is to look at the things your character normally does throughout a typical day, film those normal, everyday moments, and use them for your story.

To help make this happen, you can create a Daily Routine Map in which you map out everything that a person does from when they wake up until they go to sleep. Creating this map is a powerful way to make sure that you get all of the small moments, the ones that people often miss, but can say so much about somebody.

After you create your Daily Routine Map, you can then look at what your character normally does and see if any of those events could be used to cover the plot points in your story.

Here's how Team Okinawa applied this idea.

4. Find a way to illustrate the moment or point being made in a stylized way.

This technique often requires the most amount of care and preparation, but it delivers powerful results when done right.

Effectively, you're creating an art directed scene to illustrate your point.

The danger here is that you need to pull it off very well, otherwise it, too, will feel cheesy or distract from the story being told.

Here's how Team Houston applied this idea.

Ultimately, the goal of these techniques is to capture the emotion of a moment, the essence of what it was like when it happened. With a bit of creativity, and these tips as a starting point, you can overcome almost any unfortunate gap in your footage.

We’ve all missed moments. What’s one of the most creative ways you covered a missed moment within your film?