There’s a scene in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? where Eddie comes into the room to use a handsaw to cut the handcuffs off himself and Roger. His head bumps the lamp, sending shadows spinning around the room. When this shot was added, the animators had to go through each frame to add the right change in shadow for Roger.
There had been no other film that mixed animation with live action before. It was new ground. For the animators this meant there were new challenges but also that they were the ones setting the standard.
Some versions of the story say that they were sure that the amount of time spent on these few shots would not be recognised by the general public. But it was important to do. Not only did it make the scene more realistic, easily merge the worlds of humans and toons in the audience’s mind, but it made the world of Roger Rabbit that much more believable and immersive.
Bumping The Lamp became the term the animators used while working on the shadows, giving extra attention to details.
Paying close attention to that detail stretches beyond that scene. It’s about learning more about your world and your story, filling in details.
Consider the amount of time Bret Easton Ellis spent ensuring the accuracies of Patrick Bateman’s observations about suits and designer dresses in American Psycho. It enriches the world simply by giving the writer more information about the world than would be used. It also meant that when Bateman’s observations were wrong, it had resonance.
Even if you scrap the scene, you know more about the world you’re writing about. Going the extra mile is always worth it.
Whatever your bumped lamp is, face up to the challenge. Don’t hide in the shadows from your shaking lamp. Don’t stand in front of it trying to divert the reader’s attention somewhere else. Spend the time on your lamp and it will pay off in more than just that scene.