Sully is the true story of Captain Chesley Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks) who crash-landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson river, in 2009, saving everyone onboard.

It’s an incredible story, but how do you make a  ninety minute feature out of a flight that lasted a mere 200 seconds?

Sully solves this problem with a technique Hitchcock called “meanwhile back at the ranch.” It works like this: Start with one story and follow it to a peak moment, then start something else and go until that thread peaks, then go back to the first story or introduce a third element. Sully leaves the plane as it’s going down to give us the investigation that followed the crash (we all know how it ends after all.) The investigation storyline is broken up by scenes from Sully’s early days as a pilot in training. By the time we get to the entire crash-landing scene (it’s awesome) we care about more than just seeing the big splash that the trailer promised.

When you start looking for this technique, you’re going to see it everywhere. Melville might not be the first place you look, but “meanwhile back at the ranch” is how he gets you to read the chapters in Moby Dick about a sperm whale’s stomach contents.

My favorite example of this in non-fiction is Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm. You learn so much about New England fisheries and the bar scene in Gloucester, Massachusetts as you turn pages to find out what happened to the Fishermen aboard the Andrea Gail

Done well, this technique adds richness and density to a short story and makes a long one more digestible.

For more on scene transitions and editing have a look at Every Frame a Painting.