In this era of the social media examination of pop culture, we often witness the post-mortem analysis of successful films – the emphasis of which is usually on what might have been. We increasingly see directors answering questions about things they cut out of their movies, or considered including but ultimately rejected. There is rarely any value in those discussions, beyond the stoking of fan discussion, simply because the film is what it is by that stage. But, sometimes there is an exception to the rule – and this time, that exception is Jordan Peele’s Get Out.
As you surely know, the film was a huge hit when it was released last year, and its themes sparked a great deal of necessary conversation. One such conversation took place recently with Peele at the DGA’s 27th annual Meet the Nominees symposium, where the writer-director explained that the opening scene in an early draft of the script was very different – and, crucially, why he changed it.
As it was released, the film opens with a very short sequence, featuring a black man walking through a neighbourhood with which he’s unfamiliar. Through dialogue and framing, Peele communicates that the man is uncomfortable, and that the population of the neighbourhood is predominantly white. He suddenly notices that a car has begun to follow him and, ultimately, the scene does not end well for him. In highlighting the changes he made to his first drafts, Peele reveals the choices he made and how these created the very specific tone of the overall film.
“An early draft of this scene had a lot more going on. It was originally – there was a family inside a house [that] was having a conversation. A white family having their dinner and having a conversation about Disneyland. And this incident happens outside their house and they never realize.”
“…I decided to strip it way down because I felt that the first scene in the movie is very important, and it’s very important not to do too much. What you’re trying to get across is a feeling. And in the case of a thriller, I felt like you’re trying to offer [a] promise to the audience of what is to come. Ultimately, it became much more important for the audience to be immersed in the experience of being a black man walking down the street in a white neighborhood. …I felt like if we could start there, the audience would receive that promise and, from that point forward, know that race is the monster that we’re fearing.”
Jordan Peele is most famed for his work in comedy, and this early draft sequence featuring an oblivious white family discussing Disneyland while a black man experiences violence nearby is deeply seated in that genre. It uses satire and juxtaposition to skewer the related issues of race and privilege in an economical and impactful way. But, while that’s brilliant writing in and of itself, the pared down version that was included in the finished film is far more effective in preparing us for the creeping, horrific realizations of the rest of the story.
It also shifts perspective to the right place. The opening sequence of Get Out, as it is in the finished film, focuses our attention solely on the perspective of a black man walking down the street. With no cut-aways to a white family in conversation, we experience only his viewpoint as he becomes increasingly disoriented and vulnerable. This narrative choice is the early decision that sets the movie on its path to absolute success – and is further evidence of the fact that Jordan Peele is a towering filmmaking talent.
Source: Screen Rant