It used to be that a DVD’s additional material—the deleted scenes, the extended scenes—were these Easter Eggs of story canon from which fans could eek ever more detail and geek out on message boards. The Matrix of course was the first and best at this, the vanguard of the DVD scene at the turn of the century*. And all the Lord of the Rings films remain richer for their extended scenes, allowing us to dive into every Middle Earth detail, at the expense of pacing. In fact, my wife and I made that a holiday tradition, watching all three movies over a couple of days, pausing whenvever for snacks or whatnot.
But somewhere along the way, the deleted/extended scenes lost their luster. Watching them after a particularly enjoyable film somehow took away from that film’s impact. They got dull, or were poorly produced, thrown onto every DVD so that someone could check a box that they’d included the content. So we stopped watching them together.
Well, not entirely. I’ve returned to them when I can, because there is something to be learned from the deleted content, especially if you’re a writer of any sort.
Even when the director doesn’t explicitly say why they removed the scene, it’s either obvious or easily gleaned. The reason could have been for pacing, or the content was tangential/irrelevant, out-of-character dialog, or was done to downgrade the movie’s rating if the content was too extreme. All of these are reasons why I might crop content from my own novels. I like to watch these scenes to see what the creators were thinking.
So if you’re a creator of any sort, I encourage you to watch the deleted scenes—not for the Easter Eggs, but for the insight into the creative process. Watch a couple thousand, and you’ll probably have a good handle on it.
*Does that statement make you feel old? Good.