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...

Actions

We will be assigning actions to the character's movements and dialogue, keeping in mind that the overwhelming majority of actions are wedded to a character's immediate want. Sometimes a character will say or do something that is not wedded to their immediate want and can be attributed to their innate character. An example of this is when Customer says, I'm tired of being pushed around. The action of this line has nothing to do with the scene want and everything to do with Customer's psychology.

Antagonists Voice

In this story, five thousand cameras are watching Truman. They are everywhere, and one of the first jobs Weir has to accomplish is to inform us of that. Some of the antagonist's cameras are indicated by an irising around the edges and are easily identified. Others are not identified as easily. And Weir cleverly relies on this ambigu-ousness, this fuzziness, to convey which image belongs to the antagonist and which to the objective narrator, to increase the antagonist's arsenal by having 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...

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...

Camera Height

Is there any constant I can use you might ask. Anything that will make my job easier Yes, there is sort of. The camera is always at eye level except when it's not. This is, of course, in relation to our actors. The question then becomes When is it not Extreme low or high angles have to be justified by the essence of the moment that must be conveyed while at the same time paying heed to the overall design and style of the film. And the eye level constant can itself be a variable. Edward Dmytryk...

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...

Circumstance

What are the circumstances for the three characters in A Piece of Apple Pie Let's start with the seemingly easiest one, Female Cop. She likes apple pie, right Wrong She loves apple pie She adores apple pie It is the highlight of her day. And she eats it on an exacting schedule at this particular diner that she has come to expect will deliver precisely what she wants. She has yet to be disappointed Just think for a moment what would happen to the conflict in our story if Counterman felt he had...

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...

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,...

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...

Customer

Before Counterman can answer, Customer turns and exits. Counterman looks at the clock 12 00. He places the gun out of sight, goes to the piece of apple pie, replaces the napkin and fork, turns to the coffee pot and pours a cup of coffee. As Counterman turns to set the cup next to the apple pie, a FEMALE COP sits down in front of it. It is obvious that she can take care of herself. The Counterman smiles lovingly at the Female Cop. She picks up the fork and smiles lovingly at the piece of apple...

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...

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 Construction

As was mentioned, there is both an external and an internal conflict that besets the main character of this film. In the first will Guido make his film the tensions between the protagonist and the antagonist(s) (producer, screenwriter, crew, actors, wife, mistress) are dramaturgically similar to those in Notorious and The Truman Show, in that they are external. But in the internal conflict there is a vast difference, because the protagonist and antagonist of this conflict are contained in the...

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...

Dream

At the beginning of a film, mystery is a welcome dimension. The audience is forced to come out of their own lives by being pulled into another. And this is what Fellini offers in the very first shot of this film. But within the first three shots he also offers us an equation that allows us to participate in the unfolding of this mystery Driving in silence, a man wearing a hat slows his car to a stop. He is in a massive traffic jam. He sees a man staring (accusingly ) at him from another car and...

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

And what an imaginative fantasy both comic and profound. We are introduced to a new character, the stewardess (along with her distinctive voice). There is no logic for her being there, but there is an emotional authenticity to it. She is a product of Guido's past, something we now know quite a lot about, and she does not seem foreign to his quest for a spiritual answer. The amalgam of sex and religion and work has become familiar terrain for us in this film. (Think for a moment of how little...

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...

Fine

Once we have gotten the larger aspects of the story to work, it is time to fine-tune the film. Ninety percent of this will involve shortening. Shots will be too long or unnecessary. Perhaps on the third run-through or seventh of the entire film, we come to the realization that a scene can be eliminated because it is redundant. But it makes us laugh Or it contains one of our more pithy lines. Still, there is only one question to ask Does it serve the overall story Yes, it works on its own, but...

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...

Imagination

I would make a distinction here between what I have labeled active imagination (which Guido used to try to solve the problems of his story) and what occurs now. It is not the same. It no longer comes out of struggle. It is now inspired. Intuitive. Creativity on the highest levels. It sweeps the artist along in its power. Fellini also acknowledges that something different is going on here, in that we are in reality and in Guido's imagination at the same time, in the same shot. Guido is being...

Improvisations

Improvisations can be helpful, or not, depending to a large degree on how they are set up. Parameters are necessary. An area that is fruitful for improvisations is the what that happened before. For instance, two people have been married for 10 years when the film begins. It may be very helpful for the actors if they improvised a first date, or even the wedding night. The what that happened before might also be a scene that takes place just before the scene you are working on, but one that is...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

Patio

You will find Hitchcock very economical in the number of camera setups he uses to render this scene. In this second dramatic block (Figure 6-7) he uses three ( 3, 4, and 5). E-5, 3, M2S (profiles) Hugging action begun in previous shot is completed (Figure 6-8). Alicia kisses Devlin. He is unresponsive. Hitchcock relies solely on the acting beats (the action reaction between Alicia and Devlin) to carry the first portion of this block. Alicia attempts to coax Devlin into telling her what's wrong....

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

HOTEL CORRIDOR The geometrics of the last shot of the dream (converging parallel lines) are duplicated in the first shot in the hallway, making for a satisfying aes thetic resonance. But the dissonance between the two shots is what supplies the narrative thrust, the biggest difference being that Guido is moving with alacrity toward a moving camera where a moment ago he was frozen in space by a static camera. The two shots of Guido waiting long and then close pay extraordinary attention to this...

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...

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...

Speak To The Character

Speak to the character, not the actor. Do not use abstract or intellectual terms use the everyday vernacular of your character. What do you think you would do, if . . . How many times have you gone to bed with her Kazan had a very immediate and intimate method of working with actors both in rehearsal and on the set he would aim straight for the actor's gut. He would take each actor aside after a scene had been run, or between shots on the set maybe put his arm around them if he was consoling...

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...

Staging

Once we have drawn the floor plan of the diner (Figure 8-1), where do we start In some scenes we may start at the beginning and work forward, and if we find that we are painting ourselves into a corner we can make adjustments. That's what our eraser is for. In general, I believe you will find that for most dramatic scenes the fulcrum can be a fruitful place to begin choreographing your blocking. (Since A Piece of Apple Pie is also a complete film, some might call it the turning point, but...

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...

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 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...

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 Attack To Placate

At the risk of being redundant, every action is an effect of a cause. The effect, to placate, is due to the cause, to attack. He begins busying himself with a wiping rag. The Customer stares at him. CUSTOMER It doesn't make any sense. CUSTOMER You got this cop coming in here eating apple pie, what two, three times a week COUNTERMAN Sometimes five. CUSTOMER So why didn't you tell the cop about this spray COUNTERMAN I did. But you know cops. They'll eat anything. Sure you don't want a cup of...

Visual Design

A film's design, or even the design of a single scene, is a melding of all of the various narrative and dramatic elements. Although we will concentrate on staging and camera because this is a book about the fundamentals of directing, and because staging and camera are the core elements of design we should not forget the importance of production design, lighting, costume, setting, props, sound design, and music. In searching for a film's design, always remember that we are working with pictures....

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,...

What Do You

The greatest help a director can give to an actor is to see what they are doing, or not doing. Stanislavsky said that on stage he did not want to see a man acting like he was hungry, he wanted to see a hungry man. In other words, do you believe what the actor is doing Do you believe that Counterman truly does want to be a good restaurateur and make the customer happy that Customer is sorry for pulling out the gun that Female Cop really does adore her pie And on that last close-up of Counterman,...

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...

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...

Elsevier

New York Oxford Paris San Diego San Francisco Singapore Sydney Tokyo Focal Press is an imprint of Elsevier Focal Press is an imprint of Elsevier 200 Wheeler Road, Burlington, MA 01803, USA Linacre House, Jordan Hill, Oxford OX2 8DP, UK Copyright 2005, Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written...

Creating The Right Atmosphere

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

Camera

Film Floor Plan With Camera Setups

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

Lenses

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

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...

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...

Memory

KITCHEN GUIDO'S CHILDHOOD FARMHOUSE There is no visual announcement that we are moving to a new mode of reality memory but we are not at all confused. The forceful action by Guido's Young Mother that begins in the first frame of the new scene immediately orients us to a new place then the lullaby, and the image of a Young Guido, orients us to past time. Aside from rendering this scene in the present in film language the past and future are always in the present tense , Fellini has another job...

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...

Dramatic Blocks

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

Camera In Notorious Patio Scene

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

The Objective Camera

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

The Fulcrum

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

Floor Plan And Staging For Notorious Patio Scene

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

Writing Scenes With Actors

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

Camera Setups

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

Fifth Dramatic Block

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