Creating The Right Atmosphere

It is important during this period that the director take the pressure off the actor by creating an atmosphere that is conducive to exploration that makes the actor feel secure and willing to take chances. An insecure actor will tend to play it safe will tend not to take chances and thus will never be as good as they could be. Equally important is for the director to convey that there is somebody home that she has a strong sense of what works and what does not. Actors will be more likely to go...

Camera

Film Floor Plan With Camera Setups

Obviously there is a difference between the specifics of designing a whole film and those of designing one scene, but our short film, which could be a dramatic scene in a larger film, is conveniently for our purposes a complete film, with a beginning, middle, and end. Continuing our Sistine chapel metaphor, it will enable us to investigate dramatic narrative concepts relating to a whole ceiling, while supplying us with an adequate variety of noses. Before we begin adding the camera, I suggest...

Lenses

The use of various lenses can modulate the narrator's voice and help tell the story more powerfully, so that even a modicum of familiarity with what the lenses can do will add a tremendous boost to your cinematic storytelling. No lens sees what the eye can see, but in whatever format you are shooting video, 16-mm, 35-mm there will be a normal that will serve as your constant. On one side of this norm you have the wide-angle lenses, which have a greater depth of field the distance in which...

Acting Beats

An acting beat also referred to as a performance beat is a unit of action committed by a character. There are literally hundreds of these acting beats in a feature-length film. Every time the action of a character changes, a new acting beat begins. Each acting beat can be described by an action verb. In the example of the student coming late to class, my action verb, to reprimand, was an acting beat. But before that beat could take place there had to be at least one acting beat that proceeded...

The Subjective Camera

Sometimes a subjective voice is desired. It is not altogether analogous to the first person voice in prose, but it shares that narrative function by allowing the audience to participate more fully in the interior life or perceptions of a character. The subjective camera allows us to see what our subject is actually experiencing. An example of this occurs in Notorious, when Alicia wakes from a drunken sleep to see Devlin at an angle in the doorway, watching him turn completely upside down as he...

First Dramatic Block

E-1, from camera setup 1, MLS sound of door shutting as Devlin enters frame right. Pan left with him to center of room, revealing patio through open French doors in the background. He rubs his forehead Figure 6-2 . E-2, MS I did not assign this a camera setup Alicia cutting chicken. This shot Figure 6-3 locates Alicia geographically and shows how determined she is to overcome her ineptness with domestic duties. She is making every effort to make herself into something she has never been all for...

Figure

Camera Setup 1 MEDIUM SHOT on CUSTOMER entering Job 3 Customer's entrance into film. Customer enters the frame from the door and exits the frame camera right Figure 8-7 . Camera Setup 2 LONG SHOT OF DINER as Customer goes to table Job 5 Geography of diner. Customer walks to table T1 and sits, revealing that we are in a diner and that it is empty Figure 8-8 . The shot should be wide enough to include the area of the counter stool S1 where Counterman will go to grieve see Figure 8-3 . When else...

Identifying The Fulcrum And Dramatic Blocks

I find it very helpful to first identify the fulcrum. It will anchor your design and will serve as a reference point for both your staging and camera. The fulcrum for Apple Pie occurs when Counterman leans on the end of the counter, his head in his hands a picture of utter defeat. The next job is to identify your dramatic blocks. It will help enormously in organizing your narrative beats into coherent patterns of action, and will indicate the possible need for new geographical paragraphs when...

Fourth Dramatic Block And Fulcrum

Hitchcock announces the fourth dramatic block Figure 6-18 by cutting from Devlin's close-up to the medium two-shot, the same shot that prefaced the separation phrase in effect bookending the extended separation. The shot E-26, camera setup 6a Figure 6-19 releases us from the intensity of the separation phrasing and prepares us for something new to happen. At this point, the fulcrum, the scene could go either way for Alicia. A question is raised in the audience's mind. She could accept Devlin's...

Dramatic Blocks

A dramatic block can be likened to a paragraph in prose it contains one overriding dramatic idea. Keeping our dramatic ideas separated gives them more force and power, and makes them clearer to the audience. And, as in prose, when we move on to another idea we begin a new paragraph, acknowledging to the reader the progression of thought, or in the case of a dramatic film acknowledging narrative or dramatic change and or escalation. Acknowledging change gives the audience a sense of forward...

Camera In Notorious Patio Scene

Hitchcock covers the Patio scene in Notorious economically, using 13 camera setups to obtain 32 shots constituting the edited scene. We will discover that each shot has a specific function from merely rendering the action to articulating it. There are two camera setups in the first dramatic block Figure 6-1 one to take Devlin to the Patio, the second to take Alicia. Looking at the film, it may seem as if the camera was in the same position for each shot, because both end their panning with an...

The Objective Camera

Most of the time the narrator will be speaking with an objective voice, as in Bob is walking down the street. He sees Linda. Linda turns away from him. In prose, it would be called the third person. The personality of the narrator and the style in which the story is told are introduced at the beginning of a film. Is the camera curious, playful, omniscient, lyrical Will it use extreme close-ups or stay distant from the characters use a kinetic camera or one that is static Will it make use of a...

The Fulcrum

In a dramatic scene, a scene where the character whose scene it is wants something that is difficult to obtain, often the most important narrative beat is the fulcrum the moment in the scene where things can go either way for that character. One could call this the turning point, but I prefer to use that term in regard to the film's overall dramatic structure turning point is often used to denote the plot point that occurs at the end of the first and second acts . In a feature film with, say,...

Floor Plan And Staging For Notorious Patio Scene

This is an elegantly designed scene in which Hitchcock uses staging and camera to render the full dramatic power of the text. It is Alicia's scene, in that she contains the answer to the dramatic question the scene raises will this romance blossom or will it be nipped in the bud We have to be in Alicia's head to appreciate the moment-to-moment unfolding of the scene, and Hitchcock uses the staging to make physical what is internal in her, making her psychology fully available to us moment to...

The Degree Rule

Degree Rule Film

If we are going from one shot of a character or object Figure 1-7 to another shot of the same character or object without an intervening shot of something else, the camera angle should change by at least 30 degrees. The effect of disobeying this rule is to call undue attention to the camera it seems to leap through space. If the rule is obeyed, we do not notice this leap. But in some instances, disobedience can be dramatically energizing. In The Birds 1963 , Hitchcock ignores the rule to punch...

Writing Scenes With Actors

While shooting a documentary on John Cassavetes while he was directing and acting in Husbands 1970 , I witnessed him writing a scene with actors. The scene was to take place in a bar, but it had not yet been written. In the middle of a hotel conference room, Cassavetes gave Peter Falk and Ben Gazzara the circumstances of the scene and what was supposed to happen in order to advance the story. Then a tape recorder was turned on and the three actors began to improvise, stopping to regroup if...

Camera Setups

Camera Setup EXT.-LONG SHOT front of diner Since the title shot and the end credit shot are basically the same and are not integral to what is happening in the diner unless we can read who is inside , this shot Figure 8-5 would most likely be taken after all interior shooting was completed. Camera Setup CLOSE-UP on APPLE PIE from pie tin to serving dish Job 1 Pie's entrance into film. This is really the first shot of the film's action, and hence it should be visually strong. The strongest...

Fifth Dramatic Block

Figure 6-23 shows the floor plan for the fifth dramatic block. This new camera setup 11, E-29 tracks Alicia's RETREAT, and then pans with her into the living room and into a medium profile through the curtain of the French door Figures 6-24 and 6-25 . Camera setup 12, E-30, tracks with Devlin from the patio, and then pans with him as he enters the living room, as ALICIA enters the right edge of the frame and looks out on the patio Figures 6-26, 6-27, 6-28, and 6-29 . It is very likely that