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...

Acting Beats

In Apple Pie, what is the acting beat for Counterman when he says to Customer, I never eat apple pie, myself What verb would be most relevant Is he stating a fact It might very well be a fact. But the problem in using stating a fact as our action verb is that it is not urgent. We need an action that contains the immediate intent. That narrows our choice considerably, especially if we remember the cardinal rule the character's actions are wedded to her or his wants Counterman's scene want, the...

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...

Camera As Active Narrator

Hitchcock's design calls for an active narrator a camera that can move away from the ordinary in order to draw our attention to the essence of the moment to what is vital to the audience's appreciation of the story. This is often the case in films that have crucial plot points that absolutely must be apprehended by the audience. Hitchcock introduces the camera (narrator) that can go off on its own needing no motivation other than the fact that it knows what is important in the first shot of the...

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...

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...

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...

Conclusion

If you enter on this exciting journey with a great amount of passion, a fair amount of patience, some free time, and a few thousand dollars, it is possible that you could have a feature film in the can within a year or two. Will it be any good Will it make money Will it win first prize at the Sundance Film Festival I don't know. But in my dealings with students I am continually reminded of Francis Ford Coppola's prediction about what the advent of video recorders would mean Suddenly, one day,...

Delegating Authority While Accepting Responsibility

Many of us have trouble delegating responsibility. We want to do everything ourselves because no one can do it as well as we can. Even if that were true, we do not have enough hands, nor are there enough hours in the day to handle all of the countless tasks that must be taken care of. So, we must choose those who help us with great care. Then, once we have chosen we must trust them to do their jobs. The flip side of not being able to delegate responsibility is to not accept responsibility for...

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...

Devlin

I must have left it somewhere. Fade out To proceed in our investigation it will be necessary for you to acquire a videotape or digital disc of Notorious. Watch the film from its beginning through the end of the Patio scene. Watch the Patio scene again. The acting beats, now available to us in the performances of the two actors, should become clear to you. Hopefully you will begin to see how the dramatic blocks are embedded in Hitchcock's geographical paragraphs his use of different...

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...

Dramatic Structure

This film inhabits a large universe, frequented by two protagonists and a host of other characters. Perhaps technically, Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) could be considered Lowell Bergman's (Al Pacino) antagonist, but this appellation seems too limiting as does the three-act structure simply because all of the action in this multidimensional universe does not fit into such a neat package. As mentioned, in cases like this it is often helpful to think in the broader terms of beginning, middle, and...

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...

Exercise A And B And A Small Object Three To Five Minutes Silent

Character B enters and takes a position as far away as possible. A goes to B and offers a small object, which B either accepts or rejects. A leaves B and goes to a new area of the room. B approaches A and returns or now accepts the small object. B moves to A's initial position. The primary goal of this exercise is to begin to familiarize the director with moving characters through space while keeping the audience oriented, and equally as important, using staging to make physical what is going...

Exercise A And B At A Table Three To Five Minutes Silent

Sitting at a table, Character A is engaged in an action (say, studying). Character B enters the room, sits across from A, and begins her his own action (say, seduction), which escalates, either repelling or attracting A. At the end, A leaves the room and B assumes A's seat at the table. Character B's entrance into the room through a doorway should be on-screen, as should A's exit. Determine a circumstance, a want, and the dynamic relationships before at least one low-key rehearsal with your...

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

Alization of an edited scene, but within reason I encourage you to give yourself alternative coverage by the use of generous overlapping of setups. This shot will obviously be used for Counterman to observe, but that narrative beat was not listed in the original detective work for this moment. Why was it overlooked Because it is a reaction not written into the script Reactions by actors, and the shots that render them, are often overlooked. But if you employ the methodology suggested in this...

First

TITLES and OPENING CREDITS, along with the date and place, appear over a painting of the Miami skyline. The key ingredient here is the romantic music playing underneath, indicating that we are about to see a love story. But just before the music and titles fade out the music turns menacing. What does that tell us It's more of a hint at this point. Yes, we are promised a love story, but it will take place against a backdrop of considerable danger. INT. COURTHOUSE CORRIDOR The film starts on a...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

Patterns Of Dramatic Movement

Dramatic movement occurs when there is a change in the dynamic relationship between characters, as when an ally becomes a foe, or a knight in shining armor becomes a ball and chain. When there is no change in the dynamic relationship when there is stasis between characters it is not dramatic. That is not to say that these relationships of stasis do not exist in film they are common, but they do not contain the essential dramatic movement of the scene or film. It is helpful in staging to be...

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

COUNTERMAN Hey, no guns allowed in here. TO SCOLD My first thought was to protest, but I settled on to scold because it is incongruous, therefore comic. CUSTOMER I want this pie TO INSIST Counterman looks toward door. TO CHECK (for help) Looking toward the door is another narrative beat that is dictated by the explicit actions of the text, but that can, if we wish, be punctuated further when we add the camera.

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 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 Camera

In this film, Hitchcock assigns a subjective voice to Alicia (Ingrid Bergman). The question is, why It is my guess that it stems from his visualization of the design for the final scene of the second act. In it, Alicia is drugged into a hallucinatory state, and because we have access to her subjective voice we are allowed to participate in her direct perception, making her helplessness palpable. Orchestrated with the active narrator, Alicia's voice gives this climatic scene a psychological...

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 Act

(Approximately four minutes and twenty-five seconds.) Here we have the consequences of Guido's action. His victory has not made him happy. For the first time he feels that something is wrong in his relationships with women. But this is a false ending Guido cannot accept this. And since he is making up the story, he immediately runs from this conclusion, concocting a new ending, one more to his liking the obedient wife who finally understands how things should be. This flip-flop in Guido's...

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...

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...

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,...

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 Director Of Photography

The most professionally intimate relationship on the set, aside from director actor, is director director of photography. After all, it is the DP who controls the key to the final images that are projected on the screen. In film, only the DP will really know what those final images will look like, so trust must be implicit in the relationship. And although the DP's first responsibility is lighting, the director will invariably rely on him for concurrence on framing (a good eye to bounce off is...

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...

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....

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...

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