Week 1 Epiphany – The Scene in Cinema

For our first studio class of The Scene in Cinema, I was in a group of four and we received a ‘blue print’ of a scene in which we were asked to create. We were limited to only panning and tilting the camera and the entire scene had to be ‘covered’ in one take. This was an interesting task for me because I felt like the ‘final product’ that we created was far more considered and compelling than what I have produced in the past as a result of ‘traditional’, industrial filmmaking methodology. This is mainly because of two things. 1. Our team worked well together and we all rotated roles; and 2. We did not script or storyboard before we began rehearsing the scene.

By rotating roles, each of us was able to have a go using the camera. At first we all expressed what we thought was going to be the best way to ‘cover’ the scene, primarily in regards to where we were going to position the camera. However, the original camera angle, shot type and camera movement that we had decided on was changed several times as we rehearsed our scene, due to the movement and positioning of the actors. For instance, one of the characters was described as being ‘tense’; so we decided that he should be pacing back and forth as he delivers his first lines. This performance then determined how the camera would move: we chose to begin the scene by following the character as he walked towards the two other characters and then as he sat down, the camera would tail him by tilting down. In this instance it was beneficial for each of us to have a turn controlling the camera, because we were then all able to contribute our own ideas about shot composition. In effect, I think we ended up with a more refined product than if each of us had have individually created our own version of the prose.

Usually when making a film I would spend a lot of time scripting and storyboarding a scene before I would physically begin to block and film it. However, our Wednesday class was very different because we were thrown straight into rehearsing, without writing anything down beforehand. I found this to be quite an enriching experience because we were able to plan the scene within ‘real’ space and time constraints. Although it can be good to meticulously plan every camera position and performance before going ‘on set’, I found that by practising with real life people, seen behind a real life camera, we were able to devise more interesting forms of camera coverage. In essence, this way of constructing a scene gave us more freedom to play around with camera and actor positioning, within the constraints of our environment. Furthermore, there were a few times during our rehearsal where we all thought that a certain camera movement would function well in theory, but when we physically tried it, it didn’t work. For example, we tried to follow the pacing character as he walked back and forth, but when we looked at the recorded footage we noticed that the camera was moving too fast and the scene was thus dizzying to watch.

Ultimately my ‘epiphany’ from this week’s class is that it might be time to change the way in which I approach filmmaking. Maybe beginning with floor plans and storyboards, like I have always been taught to do, isn’t the best way to go about covering a scene. Maybe instead I should begin in the real environment I am going to shoot in with other people who can help to block the scene with me. This would aid in the generation of ideas and would also reveal restrictions to do with camera and performer positioning due to space. Maybe after this process I could then refine the scene through scripting, storyboarding and floor plans in order to devise the ‘best’ way to cover the scene.

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