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There is a small scene that bothers me in the movie Batman Begins.

It's a trivial thing, but it prompted a more general question.

Rachel Dawes is visiting Bruce Wayne to give him a birthday present. This scene starts about 78 minutes into the movie.

While she is there, she receives a call on her mobile phone. She answers the call:

Rachel: "Rachel Dawes"

Approximately one-second pause, then:

Rachel: "Who authorised that? Get Crane down there now. Don't take no for an answer."

She speaks another line immediately and hangs up.

She then turns to Bruce and says:

Rachel: "It's Falcone. Dr Crane moved him to Arkham Asylum on suicide watch."

My problem with this scene is that there does not seem to be enough time for the person on the other end of the phone to give Rachel this information in one second or less.

I don't expect that someone on set actually rings her phone and gives her the information, but I wonder what actually happens in TV and movie production for this? Doesn't someone say answer your phone, count to 5 in your head...

  • Your question is about a particular aspect of movie production, yet your focus is entirely directed towards a Batman Begins nitpick. You should format your question such that it's focused on movie production, and give Batman Begins (and preferably one other movie) as examples to your problem. – Rapid Readers Jul 13 '17 at 17:31
  • You're watching a Batman movie and are upset that the phone calls aren't depicted realistically? – BCdotWEB Jul 13 '17 at 21:40
  • Also, audiences don't really want to sit through realistic explanation time. Yes, its unrealistic - but I suspect its done deliberately. – iandotkelly Jul 13 '17 at 21:40
  • i am neither complaining nor upset, i am simply curious as to what is done and using this particular interaction as an example. – user12841 Jul 14 '17 at 6:42
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    I remember on the commentary of 24, they said it was their policy that whenever an on-screen phone call was occurring, the actor playing the person at the other end would be on set to read their lines to the person on screen. – Darren Jul 14 '17 at 13:26
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There are two things to consider here that relate to your complaint/question.

How are phone conversations filmed?

The answer here is... it depends.

  • is the other end of the phone call going to be captured?
    • If so, with audio only or video and audio?
  • how is the scene going to be cut?
    • Consideration of this varies by director.

If both ends of the conversation are being recorded, someone will often be reading the dialogue during the scene (either over the phone or out loud) so that the actor can react to it and for the purpose of timing. It may not be the actor actually saying the words, though. Otherwise, they may ask the actor to think through the dialogue in their head as if it were being said, or give them a set amount of time to pause for.

  • If the camera is going to stay on the person with only audio being added, this timing is even more important as there won't be a way to pause the "listening" part of the conversation.
  • If they are cutting between the speakers visually, this is less important as the scene can be spread out slightly to allow for timing differences.

If only the one end of the conversation is being recorded, as in this example, the director should be conscientious of how the scene will play out and what the actual information conveyed is. If they need to give space for lengthy omitted conversation, they need the actor to pause while filming to give time for them to "listen" on screen or they need to cut away to other people in the room who might be paying attention to what's going on on the phone call.

In some cases, they fail to do this or the take they really liked otherwise has a shorter pause then they like but it's the only take they like so they go with the short pause because... most people don't really think about it.

Why was this gap so short?

There are two parts to this...

First, films occur in what we call "compressed time". Two hours (give or take) can encompass days or years worth of time. To keep the viewers interested and active, they compress unimportant things to keep the pacing of the film going. So, this short window of "listening" time may have been intentional to keep your attention rather than five seconds of watching her listen to the person on the other end of the line... it's why phone calls seldom include greetings or sign-offs... they're implied and unimportant.

Second... perhaps it was enough time. How long does it take to say "Crane was moved to Arkham on suicide watch"? Maybe not one second but probably not much longer than that. Perhaps they have some other shorthand that would make this even shorter and Rachel Dawes simply translates it for us when sharing the information with Bruce Wayne.

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Actors do not require minute, detailed instructions to act out normal human interactions like how to speak on the phone. They can act like they are on a call with little practice. They are both naturally gifted and train to improve their craft.

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