When editing together a scene on my first pass through I am primarily focused on keeping physical continuity. That is I make sure characters are looking at each other, body movements/gestures are matched between cuts, and larger movements like walking remains consistent with landmarks in the background. To achieve this necessitates re-ording some of the lines and splicing across different takes. Though a problem arrises: the emotional delivery of the actors between takes is variant enough that the mood of the scene does not flow well (as per my direction, I usually told the actors to give more energy on the second takes). The character's mood swings become distracting/unrealistic; thus I've lost emotional continuity.
On the second pass through I refocus my editing on also maintain emotional continuity. I try to keep the emotions of a scene consistent or go through a gradual arc. In addition I need each character's emotions to match each other in a given moment otherwise each character will come off as facetious. To achieve this I again rearrange lines across different takes, this time to the detriment of the context of the dialog. While the characters may be smiling and frowning at the right moments the actual words they're saying back to back make less sense, and one can tell that the conversation is out of order.
Thus on the third pass though I attempt to rectify the conversation's continuity, making sure characters' responses aren't jumping the gun on a topic before it's introduced. This is where I find a surprising amount of flexibility, hacking apart sentences a word or two to get the right segue. Perhaps this is a reflection on the looseness of my writing style. This so far has resulted in a large number of voice over splicing (audio from one line played over another character's reaction shot).
It's tricky, but fascinating. I spend weeks crafting a five minute conversation, yet we as spontaneous creatures engineer constant conversation without such premeditation every day (though I suppose the difference being most daily conversations would be too uninteresting for the silver screen). Food for thought.
Having read a few hollywood shooting scripts (all of which follow closely to the final product) I am curious to find examples of professional editors whom find themselves with the same creative license to salvage a scene.
More sneak peeks:
Scene 1 : Storyboard rough cut