Masterpiece

When I show 8-1 2 in my lecture at Columbia, most of the students in a class of 65 respond to it in probably the way Fellini hoped an audience would amused by the foibles and weaknesses of an artist attempting to give birth in a world that is quite unsympathetic to his dilemma. (Fellini regarded this film as a comedy and had taped a sign above the eyepiece of the camera This is a comedy.) Film students are naturally interested in gaining some insight into this specific dilemma, in which they...

Acknowledgments

This book could not have been written without feedback from the hundreds of students who attended my directing workshops at Columbia University. Their probing questions and impassioned work forced me to constantly clarify my teaching to better serve them, and I thank them one and all. I am also immensely grateful to my colleagues for their support, especially Bette Gordon and Tom Kalin, and for any of their wisdom I may have purloined without attribution. I owe sincere gratitude to my colleague...

Begin Thinking About Your Story

But everyone has a unique, even compelling, story somewhere inside. And perhaps, once the imagination is primed, there will be other stories. The trick is to dig them out. The writer director Paul Schraeder (Taxi Driver, 1976) told his writing workshop at Columbia that screenwriting was not writing, but concocting. Approaching your story this way can make it seem a lot less daunting. Who is my character and what does she want What are the obstacles What happens next So...

Beginning Of Third Dramatic Block

After a beat, he (Counterman) steals a glance TO MAKE SURE Note The term beat is used in screenplay texts to denote a unit of time and should not be confused with units of action. at Customer who is wiping the new fork TO MAKE CLEAN vigorously some might say compulsively. A ray of hope comes to Counterman just TO REALIZE as the fork is about to cut into the pie. (possibility) COUNTERMAN I never eat apple pie, myself. TO TEST Customer looks up at Counterman, quizzically. TO QUESTION COUNTERMAN I...

Building Directorial Muscles

My second-year students at Columbia have had exceptional learning curves in working with actors, staging, and the use of the camera as narrator by directing published one-act plays. What is most beneficial, if you choose a well-written play, is that there is a real opportunity to work with actors to help them craft a performance. You will have to sustain a scene for a much longer period of time than is ordinarily the case for a film. Yet, this heavy lifting is what will develop your directing...

Changing The Stage Within A Scene

At times, the director will need to create a different atmosphere for the next dramatic block to occur. It could be as simple as moving the actors from a lighted area to one that is darker, or from a table to a couch. The main concept here is that a particular part of the location is saved for this particular part of the scene. We may be aware, tangentially, that this other stage exists, but its evocative power is not used up. A good example of changing the stage can be found in Hitchcock's...

Character

Paul Lucey, in his very fine book on screenwriting, Story Sense, states that one of the main tenets of his dramaturgy is Write simple stories and complex characters. Although film takes place in the present, character is created in the past. Character is everything that has gone into the making of our characters before they stepped into our film genetic inheritance, family influence, socioeconomic conditions, life experience, and on and on. Of course, some influences are more relevant to our...

Character Descriptions

One of the first places our detective work pays off is in the casting process. Without this prior investigation we would be at sea. Although films are told in the present, the characters come out of the past. Character is the past. It is everything that goes to make up who your characters are family, social economic background, and so on. Clues to character are embedded in the screenplay, and they need to be dug out in order for you to be able to work intelligently with the actors. Kazan asked...

Characters A And B Are Apart And They Come Together

Many films exhibit this pattern, but Wertmuller renders it exquisitely in Swept Away. In the beginning, the male protagonist, Gennarino (Giancarlo Giannini), and female antagonist, Raffaella (Mariangela Melato), are worlds apart. There is no way these two will ever come together (difficulty). Wertmuller makes physical this relationship makes it palpable to the audience by the spatial separateness between the two as they explore the island. This separateness is highlighted by a pan from the...

Characters A And B Are Together And They Come Apart

In the Patio scene in Notorious, we have a clear example of this dramatic pattern. The scene starts with the two lovebirds together, she throwing her arms around him. She talks of love, but something in him has changed since she last saw him. He is cold and insulting. He offers her a job assignment, one in which she is expected to seduce a former admirer of hers who is a Nazi spy. Psychologically, this drives her away from him. Hitchcock makes this physical makes it palpable to the audience by...

Composition

There was a director of photography at the Prague Film School many years ago who taught composition. A slide of a landscape or a person or a group of persons would be projected on a screen. A movable frame, controlled by the student, was used to crop the picture with the camera's aspect ratio (the ratio of width to length of the camera frame). As the student moved the frame over the picture, searching for the right composition, the professor would yell out when he was getting close, Do you feel...

Concocting Your Feature Screenplay

Don't agonize too long over what story you are going to tell. Commit. It is better to shoot something very soon than to waste years making sure. You can never be sure. Within a month you should be able to come up with at least the beginnings of a story. You're not sure what will happen, but what you are sure of is that the story contains potential, possibilities for growth. Now what most writing programs will tell you is to go home and write. Okay, it might take a year, or five, but that's what...

Designing A Scene

The design of a scene (as well as the design of your entire film) depends on tone, style, specific narrative jobs, and placement in the film, but the key component of any design is the narrative beat the director's beat. In addition, to use them in a design we must first designate them. The catch is, we cannot begin to designate what beats we will articulate to the audience without first having some inkling a rough sketch, if you will of our design. Where does this first inkling come from It...

Detective Work On Scripts

Every film begins with a screenplay, ideally a good one. Still, even in very good screenplays the director's investigation may uncover flaws as the screenplay is broken up into its smallest parts, even if the director is also the writer. A more intense focus, a more powerful lens, must be brought to the text now. The essence of every dramatic moment should be discovered and related to a dramatic whole. If we think of the screenplay as a forest and the dramatic moments as trees, we ought to be...

Directing During Rehearsals

Acting is a process, but a process that works differently and at different speeds for different actors. Some actors work from the outside (the dialogue, relationships, costume, makeup, and so on) to the inside (so-called technical actors), whereas others start on the inside (use of selves) and work toward the outside (so-called method actors). The technical actor may give results sooner, but the character may lag behind. For method actors, the opposite would be more likely. It is important to...

Directors Assembly

During the director's much-needed vacation, the editor or assistant editor will log all of the material, keeping careful records of where all the various takes are. The takes can then be assembled in the chronological order of the screenplay. Returning refreshed and eager to see how everything cuts together, the director can now sit down and look at all of the footage in order, selecting performance takes, and making a shot list for an assembly that approximates, as much as possible, the...

Directors Notebook

You will want to keep an organized record of all of your work on the script, plus all of your musings on how you see the film how you see the characters, the atmosphere, the look. Clurman writes Whether or not directors set their thoughts down on paper, the general process goes on in their minds. It is this mental process I would stress rather than the literary activity. On the other hand, in teaching direction (wherever such a dubious course is hazarded) I suggest that the teachers insist on...

Dramatic Structure

As much as any film we have discussed, and more than most, this film is a product of the personal vision of the artist, writer director Terrence Malick. This does not mean I think it is a better film it simply means that Malick's vision of the universe the universe he inhabits permeates the story, and it is both evident and available. The story is based on a James Jones novel, and structurally it the story of Charlie Company in the throes of battle is what gives the film its movement, its...

Dynamic Relationships

For Alicia, Devlin is still the knight in shining armor the man she has stopped drinking for the man she will change her life for the man who has rescued her from a meaningless existence. For Devlin, Alicia has returned to an earlier incarnation temptress, or as Alicia herself suggests in the scene, Mata Hari a woman who can hurt him if he lets her get too close, if he lets his guard down. He suggests as much to Alicia earlier in the film in response to her asking, Are you afraid of falling in...

Elaboration

Here we want to take a moment and make it larger, to stretch time. Large elaborations often occur at the end of films, as in, for example, the staircase scene at the end of Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious (1946) or Marlon Brando walking through the crowd of dockworkers at the end of On the Waterfront (Kazan, 1954). But elaboration occurs with regularity throughout a film. The two instances just mentioned rely on a series of shots to achieve this purpose, and that is most often the case. But...

Entrance Of Counterman

We must be careful here to see that to anticipate does not indicate love object. The actor must withhold from the audience the true nature of the relationship with this cop or the film's ending would be spoiled. At the same time, he should not lie to the audience or to himself, but find a way to justify his behavior. The actor could choose to be cool not wear his heart on his sleeve knowing that this would only turn off the Female Cop. CUSTOMER Good evening. TO ANNOUNCE Without being attuned to...

Familiar Images

A familiar image can reverberate with the harmonics of a previous moment, making the present moment larger. Scharff comments, in The Elements of Cinema We know that cinema thrives on repetition and symmetries. The familiar image structure provides symmetry in the form of a recurrent, stable picture that glues together scattered imagery, especially in scenes that are fragmented into many shots or involve many participants. . . . Normally, the familiar image is planted somewhere in the beginning...

Fantasy Or Nightmare

SPACESHIP SET PRESS CONFERENCE It really doesn't matter to our appreciation of the story what we call this other mode of reality, but for the purpose of this analysis I would come down on the side of nightmare. The urgency of the moment that generated this press conference in Guido's psyche would be greater during the defenselessness of sleep. This is a much more likely place for one to view his own death. And Guido has, in the first scene, demonstrated his propensity for bad dreams. And what...

Figure

Finding pie's placement at the counter. Finding pie's placement at the counter. Finding a new stage for the fulcrum. Finding a new stage for the fulcrum. no matter which stool we choose. That being the case, it is better to begin with an angle between the two men that is appreciably different, as changes in spatial angles can enunciate narrative beats, signifying to the audience that something has changed. S5 gives us an appreciable increase in the angle between the two men. There is one more...

First Rough

Edited shots are now extracted from the camera takes and intercut with other shots, using the director's final visualization before shooting. This is one of the most exciting times in the filmmaking process seeing performances that make us laugh or feel sad the power of the narrative beats as they are rendered by the cutting the narrative thrust of the story unfolding on the screen. But it can also be one of the most frustrating times. We begin to see our mistakes performance beats we did not...

Foreword

How do you teach film directing Nick Proferes' book, Film Directing Fundamentals, answers the question perfectly by providing a clear and concise methodology to the directing student. It is the only book I know of that addresses both the art and craft of directing. It not only offers a step-by-step process to follow but engages the reader as if he or she were sitting in Nick's class. His language is accessible, and he uses wonderful examples and clear, in-depth analysis that inspires you to the...

Fourth Dramatic Block

There is a huge dramatic arc in this block (Figure 4-4) and Hitchcock articulates many of the narrative beats through staging. Devlin is still hanging tough, and it looks as if Alicia will not obtain her want intimacy with Devlin. But she does not give up This is the key to all drama. Alicia's want is great. She will not be defeated without a fight. She stands and CHALLENGES Devlin, how dare you gentlemen suggest. This is the apex of the fulcrum of this scene. Here, Alicia goes on the offensive...

How To Draw

Excitement, passion, surprise, beauty these are the things I think about when making a film, and these are the things my students think about. They cannot be realized unless the director's vision is wedded to a firm grasp of the directing craft. With that end in mind, this book sets out to introduce you to the conceptual aspects of this craft, and to offer a step-by-step methodology that will take you from the screenplay to the screen. This second edition has benefited from the many questions I...

If Its Broken Fix It

Depending on the time constraints of the rehearsal period, it is best to correct actors especially in regard to their actions early in the rehearsal period. I realize this conflicts with the idea of a process, but you must get good at discerning when someone is going down the wrong road with little chance of finding the right way, and when he is still engaged in profitable exploration. If you wait too long, your silence may convince the actor that he is on the right road, making it much more...

Intercutting Of Active Imagination And Reality

Here we are both inside and outside Guido's head. Woman in White It is very important that a director understand what dramatic function every character performs. Remember the train trip Well, no passenger is allowed on the train who does not deserve to be there. What is the dramatic function of this character It is not the same as her spine, which we said was to seek the true, the good, and the beautiful. What we are looking for here is the Woman in White's dynamic relationship to Guido. This...

Learning The Craft Through Film Analysis

One of the quickest ways to learn the conceptual side of the film director's craft is by close readings of films made by master directors. By close reading I mean not only watching a film many times but asking different questions with each successive viewing. What you are looking for is the armature the craft that supports the film. You begin to unearth this by watching a particular scene until you grasp how it is put together how the camera and staging and work with actors have all been...

Living Room

E-3, from camera setup 1 turns into a long shot as Devlin continues through the double doors to the outside patio and stops, hands in pocket. He hunches his shoulders (Figure 6-4). E-4, from camera setup 2, MS Alicia enters frame left carrying two dinner plates (Figure 6-5). Camera pans with her into LS as she enters patio, sets down the plates on the table, and hugs Devlin (Figure 6-6). Because Alicia's physical action of hugging overlaps from one shot to the next, there is a seamless cut that...

Main Functions

Staging has eight main functions, outlined in the following. 1. The most obvious job of staging is that it accomplishes the functional and obligatory physical deeds of a scene. In other words, it renders the action, as in, for example, Jack and Jill go up the hill Jack falls down Jill comes tumbling after or (in Shakespeare's King Lear) Lear dies. 2. Staging makes physical what is internal. When staging is used in this way, it helps make the psychology of a character more available to the...

Marking Shooting Scripts With Camera Setups

We want to make it easy to see schematically what coverage we have during the different sections of the script. It serves to double check the work we have done, and it will later serve as a guide for the director of photography, the assistant director, and the production manager, as well as the film editor in postproduction. I have reduced the shooting script and placed it to one side of the page for economy, but all you have to do is place a blank page across from the text of your screenplay...

Music And Sound

I strongly recommend getting an experienced sound editor to build the sound tracks and prepare for the sound mix. As with lighting and the DP, the sound editor has technical knowledge and experience the director most likely does not have. And like the DP, they can be counted on to offer wonderful creative suggestions. Still, it is the director who has the last word in the orchestration of sound, because it is a conceptual category. When and where to have ambient sound, and what kind, is crucial...

Next

One book on directing, or even a hundred, will not make you a director. But I do hope that this book has empowered you to some extent, has taken some of the mystery out of the filmmaking process, and has given you incentive to proceed full-speed ahead in your own filmmaking career. You've been given a methodology I'm sure you will find helpful, if you try it on. But do not hesitate to make it your own. As you become more experienced, some of the written detective work may be discarded some but...

Objective Narrator

Weir's objective narrator does not actively interpret for us as overtly as Hitchcock does in Notorious, yet the story and plot points in The Truman Show are more numerous and complicated. How, then, does Weir allow us to participate in all the twists and turns of the story at the same time he allows us full access to the psychological life of the characters, especially the protagonist It is due partly to the construction of the screenplay, which juxtaposes actions in such a way that cause and...

Part One Learning How To Draw

Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION TO FILM LANGUAGE Chapter 2 INTRODUCTION TO THE DRAMATIC ELEMENTS Chapter 3 ORGANIZING ACTION IN A DRAMATIC SCENE 21 Dramatic Elements in Notorious Patio Scene 22 Notorious Patio Scene Annotated 23 Patterns of Dramatic Movement 32 Changing the Stage Within a Scene 33 Staging as Part of a Film's Design 34 Working with a Location Floor Plan 34 Floor Plan and Staging for Notorious Patio Scene 34 Working Toward Specificity in Visualization 50 Dramatic Blocks and the Camera 51...

Part Three Learning The Craft Through Film Analysis

Chapter 13 ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S NOTORIOUS 161 Overview of Style and Design 161 Chapter 14 PETER WEIR'S THE TRUMAN SHOW 180 Overview of Style and Design 180 Chapter 15 FEDERICO FELLINI'S 8-1 2 205 Overview of Style and Design 206 Chapter 16 STYLES AND DRAMATIC STRUCTURES 240 Tokyo Story, Yasujiro Ozu (1953, Japan) 240 Some Like It Hot, Billy Wilder (1959, USA) 242 The Battle of Algiers, Gillo Pontecorvo (1965, France) 244 Red, Krzysztof Kieslowski (1994, Poland, France, Switzerland) 245 Sex, Lies,...

Put Away Your Detective Work

All of the work you have put into understanding the text should now be locked away in a drawer hidden from the actor. Much of it will not help them in its present form. Take an example from Apple Pie. Telling the Counterman that the dynamic relationship between him and Female Cop is my happiness will probably not help him. It is nonspecific. Instead, you will make sure the actor understands just how the Female Cop makes him happy something concrete, such as her pure pleasure in eating the pie....

Second

MOUNTAINS PLANE A second act usually begins with the rising action of the protagonist attempting to extricate herself from her dilemma(s). (In this case, Alicia must redeem herself through sacrifice for her country, and win the love of Devlin. The latter is the goal the audience has already invested their emotions in. If Alicia were to do a good job as a spy, but not connect with Devlin, we would be sorely disappointed. That is why this is a love story.) This rising action is conveyed...

Second Dramatic Block

The repeating would be an example of elaboration and would be accomplished with multiple angles, creating the idea of danger and its inherent suspense. The above implies a two-shot, which again resolves spatial separation while letting us in on the plot point. A question is raised here. Will the objective of Jill's want be won or lost

Shot Lists And Storyboards

What we want to end up with is a list of camera setups for each scene. (A camera setup is when the camera is moved from one position to another, most likely requiring a lighting change. And as mentioned earlier, more than one edited shot may be taken from a single camera setup.) Storyboards are drawings of each individual shot. They are a visual manifestation of a long investigative journey and can be very helpful in communicating the director's vision to others. But the beginning director...

Shots

Professionals in the film industry don't usually refer to a shot as a sentence. But in learning any foreign language, we have to think in our native language first in order to clearly formulate what it is we want to say in the new language, and the same principle applies to learning to talk in film. It can be extremely helpful before you have developed a visual vocabulary to formulate the content of each shot into a linguistic analogue (the prose and syntax of your native language) in order to...

Spines

There are two categories of spines we will be dealing with. The first is the spine of your film, or its main action. Before we get to the dramatic definition of a film's spine, an analogy using representational sculpture may be helpful. When working in clay, a sculptor first builds an armature (i.e., a skeleton, usually of metal) to support the clay. This armature determines the parameters of the final work. If the armature is designed to represent a man standing, it will be impossible for the...

Spines For A Piece Of Apple

Before we decide on the spine of the three characters, we must first decide on the spine of the screenplay the main action of the film. There is no one answer. It is the director's interpretation of what the writer has written. But whatever the decision as to the main action of the film, it must be able to incorporate under its umbrella the spines of the characters. I have come up with the following spines Film's spine to live life to its fullest Counterman's spine to win the heart of his love...

Style

Design and style are overlapping categories, and it is possible to have an effective design without a distinctive personal style. Style is primarily dependent on the needs of the story being told (tone is a large component) wedded to the director's vision of the world, or his or her personal relationship to it. This second ingredient of style is rare, but examples can be noted in the differing visions of the world expressed in the most personal films of Fellini or Ingmar Bergman. Fellini...

Style And Craft

This film's narrator is the most reserved of any we will encounter among the films talked about in this book. The camera, with very rare exceptions, never moves, and for all but a handful of shots is placed about 36 inches above the floor, about the height of an average person sitting on a tatami mat in a Japanese house. And Ozu uses the restrictions of the tight quarters in these houses to create powerful geometric compositions. But it is Ozu's masterful use of the tableau his groupings of...

Subjective Voice

Guido, the main character, is given a subjective POV by Fellini, but uses it rarely. Why is this, when the crucial action of the film takes place inside the protagonist's head That is precisely why to have a subjective voice within a subjective mode of reality would be redundant. (Alicia's subjective voice in Notorious always manifests itself in reality.) However, in the first scene of this film, Fellini does assign a subjective POV to Guido, and then plays with it, and us, in the first scene...

Summary

In the summer of 2000 I was giving a lecture in Greece to a group of European writers and directors, and I was analyzing this film, in much the same way I have done here. When I finished, one of them came up to me. Yes, the lecture was fine, and yes, it was instructive. But what this young filmmaker marveled at most was my unabashed enthusiasm for the film. The young man commented on the joy I had taken not so much in the story (after all, I have seen the film fifty times or more) but in the...

The Assistant Director

In reading Something Like an Autobiography by the great Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon, 1959, Japanese), I was struck by the attention and praise he lavished on his assistant director, a man who served him in that capacity for many years. Even on a small film, the assistant director (AD) is of paramount importance to the director. Thus, the director must choose with great care the person who occupies this position. On smaller productions, such as the ones my students undertake...

The Camera As Narrator

Film is a language used to tell stories, and the narrator of those stories is the camera. Yes, the director is the ultimate storyteller, but the voice she will use is that of the camera. There are six variables a director can control with the camera. In all six, composition within the frame is a primary factor. Image size (which affects scale and field of view) Motion (up, down, tracking) Depth of field (normal, compressed or deep, affected by focal length of lens and f stop) Focus (selective...

The Degree Rule

The 180-degree rule deals with any framed spatial (right-to-left or left-to-right) relationship between a character and another character or object. It is used to maintain consistent screen direction between the characters, or between a character and an object, within the established space. When a character is opposite another character or object, an imaginary line (axis) exists between that character and the other character or object. The issue is most acute in the sight line between two...

The Final Script

Mike Leigh, the English director of Naked (1993) and Secrets and Lies (1996), works on developing a screenplay through improvisations with his actors over a long period of time, yet it is possible for to you make your entire film without ever having a completed screenplay. I realize this might be considered heresy by my colleagues, but what is the difference between making a film this way and writing a novel as a serial, as Dostoevsky did with many of his novels, including Crime and Punishment...

The Producer

The producer's job is to do everything possible to help the director achieve his artistic goal. She is a key figure in giving the director the support and encouragement every director needs to cope with the pressure of filmmaking. That's the ideal goal, but there are many kinds of director producer relationships, and most start with who brings the project and the money to the table. If it is the producer, we have the hired-gun relationship. The director's choice is limited here Do I like the...

The Reveal

The reveal is a narrative dramatic element so pervasive that its power can be underestimated by the beginning filmmaker because, in a sense, each shot reveals something. But what we are interested in here is the dramatic reveal a reveal that has impact, that carries dramatic weight. Examples of this are the horse's head in The Godfather (Frances Ford Coppola, 1972) the spaceship behind Richard Dreyfus's pickup truck in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977), or the smaller,...

Theme And Orchestration Of The Next Sequence

Although the reliance on theme can get us into trouble if we look at it merely as an abstract, it can be extremely powerful when viewed (as Fellini must have in this sequence) as a matrix in which a character lives and breathes, profoundly affecting that character's relationship with others and with the universe itself. The theme I would suggest for the following sequence is the Catholic Consciousness. It pervades each scene of the entire 16-1 2 minutes of the sequence. It unifies the...

Third Dramatic Block

In the third dramatic block (Figure 4-3), because of Devlin's attitude and the job he proposes Alicia undertake, she detaches, and then distances herself from Devlin and sits (apart). Devlin moves behind Alicia to take command. They are no longer looking at each other, increasing the feeling of apart. This is a good example of staging for picturization staging in order to create a frame for the camera that articulates the dramatic circumstance of the moment or to create an atmosphere for that...

To Affirm To Admonish

This last acting beat, to beguile, will be heard over a shot of the Customer in my visualization. Hence, it would not be articulated and is not considered a narrative beat in my design at this point in the process. CUSTOMER I don't drink coffee. COUNTERMAN Oh, no, why not CUSTOMER I heard it wasn't good for you. COUNTERMAN If I had to stop serving everything that wasn't good for you, I'd be out of business. CUSTOMER You have a responsibility to your customers. COUNTERMAN Hey, I'm not twisting...

To Search

On this search, Customer will still be inspecting, but I would choose not to punch it up until the next beat. He inspects the fork. TO SCRUTINIZE To scrutinize and to inspect are synonyms, but do indicate shadings. If a character is performing a series of more or less the same actions, we should look for adjustments in the performance that lead toward escalation of the actions. For me, to scrutinize indicates more intensity, more concentration. It is as far as this particular action can go. He...

Visualization

From your first reading of the screenplay, certain images will appear to you. These might include a face, maybe the layout of the location, or a piece of blocking even individual shots. In addition, as you become more visually experienced a series of shots combined with staging will announce themselves. A large part of the methodology in this book will be aimed at encouraging and orchestrating this visualization to both conceive images and cut them into edited shots, so that by the time you...

Wants

Wants differ from spine in that they are smaller goals (objectives is another term sometimes used) that must be reached before the larger goal of the spine can be achieved. For instance, in 8-1 2 the protagonist's spine is to lead an authentic life a life that is not a lie but he also wants to make a great film and be a good husband. There are also smaller (but not unimportant), more immediate wants that occur in individual scenes and are called scene wants. For the protagonist, Guido, there...

What Are We Watching For In This Film

We will be watching for the clarity of all plot points in what is a complicated story with many characters. We will pay attention to how we get this expository information within the uninterrupted flow of narrative thrust. But the key ingredient for us to be aware of is the strong emotions Weir succeeds in generating in the audience. It is very difficult to resist Truman's innocence, goodness, humanity, and ultimate dilemma. Yes, the vehicle for this possibility was embedded in the screenplay,...

What Are You Looking

The following are casting considerations to be kept in mind. 1. Is the actor right for the part What you are really asking yourself in the first audition is, do you see the character, even if it is a version of the character different than you had imagined Some of these judgments are subjective and cannot be defended. Nevertheless, you must begin to listen to this side of yourself, and begin to have faith in it. If you see a talented actor at work but do not see the character you need...

Working Toward Specificity In Visualization

The first version of your film began the first time you read the screenplay, or perhaps, if you were the author, while you were writing. Another version was born after the detective work, and perhaps the latest version after the staging. There will be more versions or maybe we should start calling them revisions as we begin to explore the best way of rendering each moment within the context of the entire film. The Russian director Sergei Eisenstein, in a lecture to film students (published as a...

Working With The Crew

It is a good idea in the training of a director that they become conversant with the different craft disciplines. It is not necessary that the director become proficient in these disciplines, although that certainly does not hurt. It is more important that the director have a clear visualization of what she wants and the ability to convey that to others. Much of what the director wants from the various craft disciplines will be conveyed by the AD. And the same clarity that is essential in...

Left To Right

If a character (or car, or any moving object) exits a frame going from left to right (Figure 1-8), he should enter the next frame from the left if we intend to convey to the audience that the character is headed in the same direction. If we disobey this simple rule and have our character or car exit frame right (Figure 1-9), then enter the second frame from the right, the character or car will seem to have made a U-turn. This rule can be broken if the time period or distance (which can be...

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...

Tone For A Piece Of Apple

Obviously we are not dealing with a tragedy here, but it is also not a flat-out comedy. We hope that there will be some chuckles, but for the most part it is a safe drama. Safe for the characters, that is. We know from the beginning, or we should know, that no one will be killed or unduly traumatized during the film. It can probably best be described as a dramatic comedy. We will be interpreting the actions of our characters with this tone in mind, and it will be an important factor in...

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...

The Prose Storyboard

Prose storyboards can be very effective in locations that do not lend themselves to floor plans. And they are very helpful in spotting errors of omission missing beats even if we then go on to visual boards. Let's see how this type of investigation might work with the following text. Jack and Jill go up the hill, to fetch a pail of water. Jack falls down and breaks his crown. Jill is happy. To shoot the above scene using the methodology set forth in this book, we would first apply our detective...

To Justify

I visualize this last group of three actions as being rendered in one shot. The narrative beat here, to surrender, is articulated by the staging placing the fork on the counter. Customer lays two dollars on the counter and stands. COUNTERMAN You sure you don't want to try the key lime stops, and turns back to Counterman. COUNTERMAN Maybe you ought to get rid of it. CUSTOMER I just bought it today. It's not even loaded. COUNTERMAN No one knows that but you. CUSTOMER I'm tired of being pushed...

Breaking A Piece Of Apple Pie Into Actions

Mike Nichols, in talking about his work, described an analogy used by Lee Stras-berg, the former director of the Actor's Studio. Strasberg said that directing a scene was like making a salad. You don't just take a head of lettuce, a tomato, and a cucumber, throw them into a bowl, and call it a salad. First, you must chop all the ingredients into pieces. In film, there are three salad makers at work, each dividing the ingredients into ever-smaller units. The writer divides the story into acts,...

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...

Prose Storyboard For Jack And Jill

The syntax of the above sentence indicates the varying emphasis in the shot. We start with rapid forward movement of an empty pail being carried by someone which introduces the chore and then pan up to that person for his entrance into the scene. We would find him confident and determined, and perhaps discover a hint of maliciousness. Trying to keep the pace, a Young Girl. Jill would be equally determined, but obviously not equipped for this arduous trek. A brother sister estranged, going UP....

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...

Narrative Beats

Why does a director move a camera, or cut from one shot to another Why does a director have a character move from one side of the room to the other Is what they do random, or can it be explained If it cannot be explained, it cannot be taught. I believe it can be explained, and not just for some films but for all dramatic narrative films. For nearly a century the concept of a beat has been used in acting as a unit of action or nuance from the perspective of a character. However, it is also...

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...

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