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 help you find the corresponding visual images. At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that film, unlike the words of the screenplay, is rendered on the screen in a series of images that, when combined in a sequence, gives a meaning that goes beyond mere words. The late Stefan Sharff, a former colleague of mine at Columbia, in his book The Elements of Cinema, wrote:

When a proper cinema "syntax" is used, the viewer is engaged in an active process of constantly "matching" chains of shots not merely by association or logical relationship but by an empathy peculiar to cinema. The blend so achieved spells cinema sense — a mixture of emotion and understanding, meditative or subliminal, engaging the viewer's ability to respond to a structured cinema "language" ... A cinematic syntax yields meaning not only through the surface content of shots, but also through their connections and mutual relationships.

Axis between two subjects.
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