Before you execute you have to do prep work; figuring out the structure, scene lists & character profiles. you can breakdown shots by simply using brackets on the side of your script. Then you can turn that into a shot list or vice versa. This helps you get a feel for your coverage (amount of footage shot and different camera angles used to capture a scene).
The Film Connection Book basically says don’t just sit down and start writing without any of those things because its harder to write a new draft of an already composed work then write the initial draft. This is because all the things you’ve already written are in your head as the structure you “need” or should have.
They sort of copped out by having 2 “The Hollywood Reporter Roundtable”’s as the videos. If you have a moment on YouTube, you should watch one, or 5 of them. They do them every year and it helps you get a good perspective of the different jobs on a set that they highlight, from professionals doing them.
Keep writing, even after the first one is done. Make Reading your action take as long as performing the action would take. If you’re writing autobiographical – be sure to detach yourself from the character.
Aaron Sorkin says, If you begin writing and it is slow and painful, you probably aren’t ready to start yet. He, like Werner suggests you listen to music to try and psh past your writer’s block. Define the intention and obstacle of not just your story but your first scene, as this is where you will start writing. Again, some writers use note cards. Give yourself milestones to reach like page numbers or scene numbers. Writing and paining a fence are 2 different things. With paining a fence, you know what to do and can see where it ends. You can be in any mood and the fence will be the same. That does not mean the same for writing. It is important to feel good and have a good headspace when you are writing.
The mentor and I discussed Composition. This is composed of what makes the audience drawn to watch what you put together for them.
Lets talk Depth. Try to have 3 dimensions in a shot; the foreground, mid ground and background. Filming in front of an alleyway with the lines all stretching far and away is a good example of adding literal depth to your shot. So is putting your subject in a window frame or doorway with a visible background behind him (this is also referenced as Frame Within A Frame). There are moments for flat images but a full/rich images leaves good impressions in your audiences mind. More cinematic.
Size In The Frame is reflected by how important it is in the frame. Small is insignificant and large is the opposite. To turn the tables in a scene without words have a character far away (smaller) move closer to the camera as he gains the upper hand. It’s also reflected by what you choose to put on the screen. If you show us a gun or a set of keys, they should eventually be used because they got a close up in your proceedings.
Contrast – If a character is wearing grey, is sort of pale and is in an eggwhite room, there isn’t a ton of contract. Write them a scene outside in the greens and it will pop off the screen more. The same goes for the reverse. If youre in a dark club and everyone is wearing dark except one extra, he is what is going to stand out. This isn’t just limited to color, but size and shape as well. Light & darkness, will have you naturally looking at the lightest parts of the frame.
Leading lines lead the viewer’s eye into your subject. If the character is sitting on the bleachers with the rule of 3rds in play the lines of the bleachers are leading to him or her. It sounds simple ad almost preposterous, but it works. If you take the alleyway from the earlier example and put your character at the end of it, your lead lines draw directly to them, again.
The Golden Ratio is also like this. It is a pattern interwoven in our day-to-day lives, so it’s appealing when we see it on the screen. This goes with most patterns actually.
Wide shot. Establishing shots do exactly that, sets your mind up for a scene that is about to take place in a location. It can let you know time of day and where the scene takes place. It also can show off a characters body language, props or costumes.
Close Ups. Very personal, these shots literally put you in someone’s face, or seemingly inches from their body (from about the chest up). There are extreme close ups too, which act exactly how they sound. If a Close up is of the face, the extreme version catches only an eye. They help show off emotional nuances in a character. The less you use them, the more effective they are.
Between them are the Full shot, that shows all of your subject head to toe/ Medium full, that’s from the knee up/ Cowboy or Medium from about the thighs/ Medium Close from the waste/ Medium Close is the full head only and then there is Extreme
Dutch Tilt or German angle. Where the camera is purposely turned on its axis so vertical lines are at an angle.
Balance comes via the rule of 3rds is breaking the scene into 3rds both horizontally and vertically. This makes individual interception points and that is where you place your main subject. If you are shooting a horizon, don’t just focus on the sun rising dead center in the shot. Instead place the horizon on the upper 3rd or lower third line. The same goes with characters so they don’t look flat or dull. Eyes should be placed on one of the vertical lines but always the top horizontal line, making it instantly more appealing. This also helps you leave room for a head space. You will rarely ever want to crop someone’s head off, instead keep them in the frame with a good bit of space, in case they make any dodgy motion. Inversely you don’t want too much dead space above the head so aim for a happy medium. Let’s say you have a conversation between 2 characters and you are looking over ones shoulder at the other. The one facing he camera is who you want to highlight right? So you line them up good with the rule of thirds and the other person’s head is just in enough of the shot so you know what it is…. This is wrong. You want to put them both on third lines, so that will simply take some reframing. Another thing that goes along with this is looking room or the space between the actors face and the edge of frame. If you have a character playing pool, you want their body on the 3rd side where you can see them aiming and some of the table, not behind them where they are pushed all the way to the wrong side. Give them room to look INTO frame. If you don’t, it is called Short Sighting and youre probably cutting off some of the characters limbs with the frame. And lastly of course keep your camera balanced unless in a Dutch tilt or you are doing so to show your character losing their mind or the like.
Central framing is the exact opposite. It works well for comedy’s and usually only due to a large amount of symmetry on either side of the frame.
Anticipatory Framing – Instead of moving the camera after your actor, can help with the flow. Anticipate and practice with the actor for smooth framing.
Get literal with your deliberation. If a character is being left out often, then frame him in the middle of the frame. This breaks the rule of thirds, but it also helps highlight an idiosyncrasy about your character because it’s unconventional. Or you can show every other character physically farther away from him then should be normal. Its subtle, but it delivers to help more your characters story forward without words. If people are falling in love keep them distant at first until the love is setting in, then you bring them closer.
Similar to the size in the frame, height of the camera is an important tool in story telling. If your camera is looking down on a character, they will feel demeaned or put down or vulnerable. Eye level is pretty normal, even keeled. Looking up at someone makes him or her feel great or like a boss. Superior.
You should generally follow these rules and be sparse in disobeying them. If you want to show someone off kilter and in a low place, you don’t have to shoot them from a high place with the camera eschew, or you can. It’s on you to decided and your audience will be the real tell if it works or not. BUT for beginners it is highly recommended that you grasp these ideas because a lot of artistic choices don’t come across as well for up-and-comers. After a lot of practice it becomes second nature.
More from the Film Connection Blog:
A lil on Editing
Motivation in Writing
Lil on Crew & Budget
Setting a Story In Motion (w/ Audio)
Genre & Conflict
Stages of Production (+Lenses)
Pura Vida in Cinema
Act 2: Escalation of Tension in Writing