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...

An Audience And A Big Screen

The first audience should consist of a few film-savvy people people who can respond with some objectivity to the film. Your family and friends may not be the most help here. These screenings can be done on the editing table or monitor. Ask specific questions. Do they understand the story the characters' motivations What bothers them After a number of these small screenings, it is time to show the film to a larger audience (10 or 12 is a manageable number) on a large screen. Here, you will be...

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...

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...

Bibliography

Aristotle, Aristotle's Poetics, New York Hill and Wang Publishing, 1961. Bare, Richard L., The Film Director A Practical Guide to Motion Picture and Television Techniques, New York Hungry Minds, Inc., 1973. Baxter, John, Fellini, New York St. Martins Press, 1994. Clurman, Harold, On Directing, New York Macmillan, 1972. Cole, Toby, and Helen Krich Chinoy, Directors on Directing A Source of the Modern Theatre, Englewood Cliffs, NJ Pearson Allyn and Bacon, 1963. Dmytryk, Edward, On Screen...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Coverage

Coverage is a term used to express the number of camera setups covering the same moment (additional angles that may or may not be used once the project reaches the editing stage). I consider it a dangerous word, especially at this point in a director's development, because it can imply that there is a safety net a generic solution to every scene and interfere with the pursuit of a design that is unique and original. The old adage of wide, medium, close (referring to filming at each image size)...

Customer

He leans on the end of the counter, his head in his hands a picture of utter defeat. After a beat, he steals a glance at Customer, who is wiping the new fork vigorously some might say compulsively. A ray of hope comes to Counterman just as the fork is about to cut into the pie. COUNTERMAN I never eat apple pie, myself. Customer looks up at Counterman, quizzically. COUNTERMAN I like it, but I just don't eat it.

Delegating Authority While Accepting Responsibility

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

Designing A Scene

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

Detective Work On Scripts

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

Devlin

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

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

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...

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...

Entrances

Entrances of characters into a film share some of the same duties as reveals, but they have a specific job to do that of introducing the character to the audience, presenting a sketch of who they are personality, social economic group, and so on or a hint of the character's psychology, such as whether they are happy or sad or their dramatic function (friend or foe). The entrance also announces to the audience whether or not the character is someone who will play a significant role in your...

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

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

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

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

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

Pie and a fork and napkin in the frame. It was kept alive in setup 13, when Customer claimed the stool. Now, by simply cutting to this same frame we jump the story forward. The predictable rhythm has been interrupted and we stay ahead of the audience. So, we cut from the clock to Counterman replacing the napkin and the fork (Figure 8-37). He then turns for the coffee. When his back is turned, Cop enters and sits (Figure 8-38). And what about the gun Do we have to show Counterman concealing it...

Film Language

Once film became a series of connected shots, a language was born. Every shot became a complete sentence with at least one subject and one verb. (We are talking about an edited shot here, as opposed to a camera setup, which may be cut into a number of edited shots.) Like prose, a film sentence shot can be simple, with only one subject and one verb, and perhaps an object or it can be a compound sentence shot, composed of two or more clauses. The type of sentence shot we use will first depend on...

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

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 Readthrough

The first read-though serves a few functions, not least of which is breaking the ice. The actors are introduced to the other actors and, even more importantly for the ultimate benefit of the film, they are introduced to the other characters not the ones they have read on the page and supplied their own interpretation to, but the ones who have now taken on flesh and blood and are sitting across from them. Questions often arise during this stage. The meaning of a line is not clear. A relationship...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Managerial Responsibilities Of The Director

Milos Forman told his directing class at Columbia that the director had to inhabit two chairs one for the artistic creative side, the other for the managerial logistical side. The trick to being a good director, he said, is to develop an ass big enough to sit in both chairs at the same time. The elements of preproduction and production that must occupy the director from the second chair begin months before shooting. As from the creative chair, the director's motto from the managerial chair is...

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,...

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

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...

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...

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 Camera

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

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

It is obvious that this is a film that was completely visualized before shooting began. It is crystal clear at all times, as to both plot development and the emotional life of the characters. Hitchcock's use of staging to make physical what is going on internally with a character, his dramatic economy (never doing more than he has to), rhythmic changes in sentence structure, use of the active narrator, and precise articulation of narrative beats all contribute to a masterful telling of this...

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...