As mentioned in My Method of Working Part 10, I am hoping to continue my research into the shooting methods of various directors, in order to inform my own filmmaking. Each week, or maybe every second week (depending on how much pre-production needs to be done), I will shoot a scene using the method of a different director. Even though we have been doing exercises similar to this each week in the course, I still feel like I don’t know exactly which shooting method works best for me…yet. After each shoot, I am planning on reflecting on my progress and this will ultimately determine how I go about shooting my final scene. In saying this, I am not too concerned about the final product, I am more interested in exploring the process of shooting a scene and how this affects the quality of the camera coverage. Ultimately, I am undergoing this research to prime my ‘future self’, so that I understand which methods help me to produce the best possible work that I can.
This week I decided that I should investigate how one of the all time ‘greats’ of filmmaking went about shooting his scenes. Alfred Hitchcock’s films were what really started getting me interested in cinema; and although I got the chance to analyse a lot of his films throughout my high school years (Psycho (1960), Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958)), I never got to research how Hitchcock actually went about creating his films.
To begin this investigation on Hitchcock, I watched an interview he did in 1976, where he suggests that the best way to go about making a film is to ‘put it down on paper’ before going into the production process. This is because he believes it is too difficult to improvise when there are ‘electricians’ and other crewmen standing around waiting to shoot. He explains that it is too costly to improvise while on set, but that the improvisation can be done earlier, in his office, where it is quiet and he can concentrate properly. Hitchcock is known to have meticulously storyboarded every shot of his films prior to shooting so that when he got onto set he could show the actors and crewmen exactly what the finished scene would look like (or at least what he hoped it would look like). These storyboards not only included the framing, but the costuming and lighting designs as well. Due to this extensive pre-production process, he is reported to have never needed to look through the viewfinder on set because he could already see what it looked like in his head.
In this interview he also talks about directing his actors. He digresses that he is very lenient with the way that his actors play their roles, in fact, he doesn’t really feel like he directs them at all. Essentially he would let them do whatever they want, until he believed it was ‘wrong’.
In terms of editing, because he was so fastidious with how a scene was covered, he ultimately attained ‘final cut’ without actually needing to cut the film himself. In contrast to how most directors work today, where they shoot the same scene from many different perspectives and then decide how to order the shots in post production, Hitchcock tended to ‘edit in camera’. He only filmed the shots he had already planned out in the storyboards; usually no more and never any less.