The art of the cliffhanger is a delicate dance of suspense and payoff, one that Dave Rogers, the director and editor of the critically acclaimed series Upload, knows all too well. In a recent candid discussion, Rogers peeled back the curtain on what goes into creating those edge-of-your-seat moments that have viewers eagerly awaiting the next episode.
Crafting the Suspense in Upload
Before delving into the mechanics of a cliffhanger, Rogers stresses the significance of preparation. A cliffhanger isn’t just a sudden twist; it’s a carefully orchestrated revelation that’s been planned from the start. Rogers shares his process, which often begins long before the cameras start rolling.
“The job of the director and the editor for that matter is to, what’s the best way to execute this? And for me, I wanted to do something with the shooting style. And it was something where I did pre-vis for, I was like, I, I, this is how I want to reveal this and what we’ll see, and it’s tricky.”
The execution of a cliffhanger is a multifaceted task. It requires a director to be a visionary, foreseeing how each piece will come together to create a moment that is both shocking and satisfying. Rogers’ approach involves extensive pre-visualization, ensuring that the final product aligns with the initial vision, even when the process is complex and challenging.
The Story’s Foundation
Rogers believes that the essence of a cliffhanger lies within the story itself. It’s not merely about leaving the audience hanging; it’s about crafting a narrative that naturally builds to an inevitable yet surprising crescendo. He draws from his wealth of experience to illustrate how the foundation of a cliffhanger is laid out in the script.
“The key to a good cliffhanger is it’s on the page. You’ve got to have the story and where it’s going. If you ever watched alias, by the way, every episode at the end, every episode ends and you’re like, oh, she’s dead. How is she going to get out of this? And the next week they would find a way.”
The narrative thread is what makes a cliffhanger resonate with the audience. It’s the buildup of tension and the investment in the characters’ journeys that make viewers care about the outcome. Rogers points to the storytelling prowess of shows like Alias, where each episode’s conclusion left audiences desperate for answers—a testament to the power of good writing.
The Element of Surprise
Beyond the buildup, a truly memorable cliffhanger often contains an element of the unexpected. Rogers reminisces about moments in television history that have left an indelible mark on the audience, thanks to their ability to completely upend expectations.
“It’s not just about a, there’s a cliffhanger there, but it’s also to blow some people’s minds, so to speak. And I go back to another JJ Abrams show. I remember watching lost and suddenly at the end of this one episode, you realize, oh my God, these weren’t flashbacks. These are flash forwards. Like there are, this is now in the future. And it was just like mind blowing.”
The surprise factor is what transforms a good cliffhanger into a great one. It’s the art of leading the audience down a familiar path, only to reveal an unexpected destination. Rogers highlights how Lost mastered this technique, delivering a narrative twist that redefined the show’s trajectory and left viewers reeling.
Rogers’ insights into the creation of cliffhangers shed light on the intricate balance between anticipation and revelation. As Upload continues to push the envelope with its storytelling; it’s clear that the series owes much of its gripping narrative to the skilled hands of creators like Dave Rogers.
Upload season 3 is now streaming on Prime Video with new episodes airing Fridays.