No dialog timer

In a couple of the live streams, the writers have mentioned that they have a timer on screen counting down the seconds until the next line of dialog in the movie.

It’s a clever innovation in that it helps them know how much room they have to riff.

The thing is they all talk about how they groan and fret when the timer goes from a few seconds to a couple of minutes.

I noticed in The Shape of Things to Come that some of the scenes they chose to cut for time were the ones without dialog, like the docking and undocking sequences and most of the time warp slow-mo twirling across the bridge.

On the other hand, I just rewatched Manos (if you watch the first half of Hired, you have to watch Part II, right?) and… Wow, that timer would have needed extra digits.

I realize Manos was difficult to write, but it’s a classic for a reason. Tom’s monologue as the two women drive silently for several minutes at the end of the movie is one of my all-time favorite riffs.

Likewise, I expect they would have cut the scene where Gamera slowly walks across the city if they’d been allowed, but that Broadway number is an absolute gem in that episode.

So now I’m wondering if perhaps that timer is encouraging a detrimental mindset? Those long silent stretches can be a challenge to fill, but rising to the challenge has given the show some of its best material. I’m wondering what we’re missing if they’re choosing to prioritize cutting those scenes.

But then, I’m not in the writer’s room.

What do you think?


Hey! So, a quick thing about editing: we rarely ever instruct our editor to cut out a chunk of the movie because we think it’ll be too hard. In fact, we actually give the editor free rein to make any cuts necessary to get the film down to a comfortable run-time that we can wrap our host segments around.

The dialog timer helps the writers know how much room there is for a riff, but it can be a little tricky to depend on; for instance, the timer doesn’t let you know when a scene might cut, for instance. So even if the timer says there’s a couple minutes without dialog, there may be several shots in that sequence that require different types of riffs. (Does this make sense? I hope this makes sense.)

The Gamera lament was a case where a silent portion of the film was one loooooong shot, and kudos to the writers for coming up with that great number. They did a great job with it!


Thanks for the info, Matt!

That’s good to know.

I still wonder a bit if it’s affecting the mindset. Like, if you have a thing that immediately makes you go “Oh, dammit,” does that change how you go about riffing?

But, of course, they’re already watching and rewatching the movie with a fine-toothed comb…


Part of my Kickstarter rewards was to watch a bit of a writer’s room. We got to see all the writers Zoomed in, along with 5 minutes of Pipeline to the Clouds with the countdown timer. They’d watch 30 seconds of the short without comment. Then they’d go back through and for each break, the writers would pitch riffs or bits. Some were clearly longer than the pauses available, so I’m not sure if it really affected anyone’s mindset overmuch. I remember Rebecca pitched a sight gag of Tom swimming on the water at one point that stuck with me.


It’s more a utility. I’d imagine it’s the riffing equivalent of the RPG’s script turned into a massive spreadsheet with all of the lines in it. I genuinely doubt it’d have too much of a negative effect.

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