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...

Realistic Shooting Schedule

The length of a shoot is usually dependent on the budget. How many days can you afford to keep the cast and crew together, and pay for the rental of equipment and vehicles This restraint almost always conflicts with the amount of time the director would like to have. So, the preparation we have gone through in this book will stand the director in good stead. The actors will have been prepared, the staging and camera will have been worked out. And yes, it will not go exactly as planned....

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...

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...

Art Direction And Production Design

Fellini's imagination was filled with images from his dream life, and these images appear throughout the film. To a large extent they dictate the choice and design of much of what we see in the film. Yes, each location serves its story function a spa is a spa, a hotel room is a hotel room and each supplies the necessary story requirements, but many of the locations do more. They serve as metaphors, imparting a richness, a resonance, a meaning that goes beyond their logical function in 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...

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...

Compression

We are not talking here about the compression that takes place in the screenplay, such as a year, or even ten years, played out in five minutes of film time (an absolutely essential component of nearly all screenplays). And we are not yet talking about transitions between scenes the what that happens between the end of one scene and the beginning of another. What we are talking about here is the compression of time that takes place within a single scene. In what we might call ordinary...

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...

Devlin

It's as if a steel grate has been pulled down between the two of them. And we feel it The binoculars serve two dramatic purposes. The reflection in them keeps the public arena alive without breaking up the intimacy, and they hide the depth of Alicia's feelings until she takes them from her eyes and we see a tear. This delayed reveal has more impact because it was preceded by our curiosity as to what she is feeling. When Devlin leaves Sebastian and Alicia at the rail, they assume the same...

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...

Dramatic Structure

Although the story is organized into what could be labeled a three-act structure, it differs greatly from the three previous films we have analyzed in that there is no protagonist driving the action of the story. And there is no single character who embodies the function of an antagonist. Rather, it is the universe the old couple (we will call them Mother and Father) inhabit that supplies the main action of the film, and to which the old couple react. (The only significant action they take...

Dynamic Relationships

The relationship we are referring to here is not the societal relationship that is, husband wife, boyfriend girlfriend, father son, mother daughter, and so on. These static relationships are facts of the story and will come out in exposition. What we want here is to find the ever-changing dynamic relationship that exists between any two characters the one that supplies what I call the dramatic juice. And where do we find it The dynamic relationship is found in the present moment in the now. And...

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...

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...

Ext Dinernight

Now that we have got our detective work, staging, and camera completed, it is a good idea to sit back and take it all in as Michelangelo did. Get down off the scaffold and take a good look at the whole ceiling, and then climb back up if need be to take a good look at the nose that looks out of place, or perhaps, to our chagrin, to discover there is a nose missing. If nothing jumps out at us, check these three areas entrance of main characters, reveals, and elaboration. I've already decided not...

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

Shots E-7, -9, -11, -13, and -15 from camera setup 5. Acting beats turned into narrative beats. DENY, TO INFORM, TO MAKE SENSE (this narrative beat is not contained in the dialogue, but in Alicia's behavior), TO DISCLOSE, and TO DETACH (Alicia moves away from Devlin). This action reaction this volleying across the net, as in a tennis match heightens dramatically the tension between the two. (Separation shots, such as those mentioned previously, that contain an out-of-focus portion of another...

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 Act

Ordinary life approximately six minutes. Everything meets Guido's expectations for a wonderful evening. Then comes the point of attack (Jacqueline's refusal to go upstairs). This raises the question Will Guido prevail We have been made familiar with this space (from Guido's childhood memory), which now allows us to participate in the unfolding of the drama without the intrusion of geographic exposition. As mentioned, the first image of the hearth and the kettle is not precisely a familiar...

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...

Intercutting Of Reality And Active Imagination

GUIDO'S HOTEL ROOM AND BATHROOM Again no announcement of another mode of reality active imagination. We accept the appearance of the Woman in White as a logical consequence of the evening, as the scene continues, alternating between the two worlds. Again and again Fellini surprises us with his narrative shorthand. From the push-in to a tight close-up of the Woman in White, we understand that Guido has fallen asleep. From the buzzing sound of the telephone we understand that he is being...

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...

Locking Picture Or How Do You Know When Its Over

We are faced with a paradox at the end of the editing process. We want to get it over with, but we cannot let it go. The first attitude might cause us to skip crucial steps in the editing end game. The second might cause us to go around in circles, never really solving the film's problems. We will continue to cut a frame here and there, add shots, and recut scenes, never giving up trying to make it perfect. Well, it will never be perfect. Anyway, perfection is not an aesthetic category. Perhaps...

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...

Make A Piece Of Apple Pie Your

Option 1 Cast and rehearse actors for an audio version, and create an animatic using the storyboards presented in this book synchronized to the audio track. This could be done with a group, and is quick, inexpensive, and relatively easy to do and you could gain experience in casting, rehearsing, and elementary editing (audio and storyboards), as well as more fully understand the shot choices illustrated in the book. Option 2 Try to improve on the interpretation I have given using new staging...

Making Your Film

If you've paid close attention to Part I you are now ready to begin making a film conceptually in your head for that's where it all begins, and that is the basis of the methodology put forth in this book. We will now take what you have learned and apply it to a short screenplay that I have written especially for this purpose. There is a protagonist who wants something very much, and an antagonist who wants very much to prevent him from getting it. We would like to engage an audience with this...

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...

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....

Reality

GUIDO'S HOTEL ROOM The first shot of an arm grasping at air announces the end of the dream and returns the dreamer to reality. It is usually a requisite when going from one mode of reality to another that you announce it, or announce your exit from the former reality. And in this film Fellini is very clear in keeping us informed as to when we have returned or when we are entering another mode of reality, until it no longer serves his purpose. Notice the entrance into the film of the two doctors...

Right To Left And Up

Psychologists have told us that those of us who grew up moving our eyes from left to right when we read, find it is more comfortable for us when a character in a film moves from left to right. When they go from right to left, a tension is created. Maximum tension is created when the character moves right to left and up. I suspect Hitchcock was aware of this psychological effect on an audience when in the final bell tower scene in Vertigo he had Jimmy Stewart climb up the winding staircase right...

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 Act

(Approximately two minutes and twenty seconds.) The second act starts with Saraghina's close-up, and her exclamation, It's not fair This rising action is underscored by the music. (Usually the rising action is by the protagonist, but usually does not mean always. These paradigms are not written in stone, and each creative artist has the license to bend them, and occasionally to ignore them altogether. The only reason they exist is to aid in telling a story more interestingly so that the...

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

Selection Of Scenes

A former colleague of mine, a very fine actor who was nominated for an Academy Award, told me that for the life of him he could not cry as a character, and because of that he never took a role where crying was a necessity. He mentioned a scene from Chekhov's Three Sisters in which the youngest sister had to be in a state of hysteria for the scene to work. This was not a choice for the actor she absolutely had to get there somehow. And pity the director who finds out on the set that this very...

Shooting Without A Screenplay

I served as a camerman for two of Norman Mailer's films, Beyond the Law (1968) and Maidstone (1969). Both films were made without scripts. What Mailer did was assemble a group of actors and non-actors, give them a character and a want, and place them in a circumstance. Mailer himself acted in both films. There were absolutely brilliant moments in both films, but the dramaturgy needed to organize the action of a complete story was missing, so the final outcome was ultimately disappointing. Each...

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 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...

Styles And Dramatic Structures

Films like literature, painting, music, dance, theater (and all forms of art) come in many shapes and sizes. This book concentrates on the narrative dramatic form of film, but obviously, even here there is great variety. In this chapter we will explore some of that variety as it is manifested in a film's style and dramatic structure, while simultaneously looking for similarities in dramatic and cinematic categories they may all share. And we will also continue to explore aspects of the...

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 Director As Auteur

I have encouraged you in this book to assume responsibility in all of the areas often thought of as encompassing distinct craft disciplines, and now I would like to encourage you to at least entertain the idea of also inventing the stories you tell. And just as in editing, production design, lighting, music, or producing where you most likely will rely on others to help you achieve your vision you might, as Fellini did, collaborate with screenwriters who can offer their skill and insight into...

The Film World

The first dramatic films were rendered as if through a proscenium. The camera was placed in position and all the action in the scene took place within that camera frame. The audience's view was much the same as a theater audience sitting front-row center. The American director D. W. Griffith was one of the first to move the audience onto the stage with works like For Love of Gold (1908), The Lonely Villa (1909), The Lonedale Operator (1911), and the highly influential, but strongly racist,...

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 Claim

To clear away (the past) TO OFFER (truce) An interpretation of the previous line of dialogue such as to request would be redundant and not nearly as pertinent or as interesting as the one chosen. The same goes for Counterman's response in the following. Counterman places a new fork and napkin on CUSTOMER Thank you. TO FORGIVE This is another interpretation of the action that goes beneath the surface of the dialogue. This is often referred to as the subtext. COUNTERMAN Something to drink to...

To Proclaim

This action is akin to Customer's first utterance Hi. The action then was to announce. Counterman walks away from Customer. He leans on the TO GRIEVE end of the counter, his head in his hands a picture of utter defeat. This is the fulcrum of our scene film, the apparent defeat of Counterman's want. It is the nadir of the downward trajectory in his dramatic journey. Its full impact on Counterman must be made palpable to the audience, and a question should be raised in the audience's mind What...

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...

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...

With Actors

Hitchcock said that if he were running a film school he would not let students near a camera for the first two years. In today's world, that film school would soon find itself bereft of students, for the camera serves as a validation that one is indeed pursuing a career in film. But too often, for too many new directors, the camera and its incumbent technology get in the way of what we will be touching on in this chapter directing the actor. It may be instructive here to point out that there...

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...

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...

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...

Directing Exercises

The fundamental conceptual knowledge of film, along with the step-by-step methodology for realizing a story on the screen the basic tenets of this book are so many words unless they are embodied experientially. For a film director is someone who makes movies, and when all is said and done the director must finally get on the set with a camera and actors and announce Action I have included four directing exercises I use in my classes at Columbia that will set you well on your way to...

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...

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...