The late Roger Ebert makes a case for cinema and its distinction between real life. If you listen to a lot of commentaries like me, you’ll surely at some point will come across bits and pieces like this particular one. All of the greatest filmmakers and cinema critics know this and will back what Ebert is saying here. This is one of those truly important concepts a filmmaker must sooner or later realize if he or she wants to make films which engage an audience. This is another reason to love Ebert as one of the most important film critics to have lived.
I’ve been waiting quite a few months now just to include Ridley’s comments on shot sizes, but I waited because I wanted to supplement it with another filmmaker’s comments on the same topic. I’ve finally come across just that – courtesy of Alex Proyas (The Crow, Dark City) – we now have two filmmakers commenting on constructing a visual narrative through shot sizes. It’s a topic I’m personally extremely interested it and have studied at great length and continue to on a daily basis. It is a very important aspect of the cinematic language that one must have a solid grasp on. It can be complex in the beginning, but once one grasps it, it becomes much easier to tell a story visually.
There’s still many more to come of Ridley Scott’s take and process on filmmaking. In this particular segment, there’s more in depth discussions about the mood and atmosphere of a film, the characters within that world. A ground that is more cynical and more a reflection of real life. Ridley also talks about the line in filmmaking that’s tricky – going over the top, or the sentimental route.
I am close to finishing taking notes on The Five C’s of Cinematography – a highly illuminating piece of text that any aspiring filmmaker absolutely must read – and I’m going to share those notes when I’m finished transcribing them to a word file. For now, here are the 7 Do’s and Don’ts as outlined in the book in the chapter of Composition.
DO’s & DON’Ts
- Do combine long horizontal lines, static or slow panning camera, soft lighting, slow moving or static players, lengthy scenes, to inspire a quiet, peaceful, restful mood. Don’t destroy the effect by tilting the camera upward, or by allowing fast player movement, or by editing with short, choppy scenes.
- Do compose a series of tall vertical columns fronting a courthouse in a dignified manner with a symmetrical, static composition. Don’t destroy the effect by panning horizontally across the vertical columns.
- Do increase the action effect of mountain climbers, racing cars, marching soldiers, by staging their movement so that the viewer’s eye must travel in a diagonal pattern.
- Do record the graceful effect of a skier twisting and turning downhill by following with a curving camera movement.
- Do employ slanted Dutch camera angles, dynamic compositions, dramatic lighting, and rhythmic editing to create an unbalanced, tilted, unstable effect on anything weird or violent.
- Don’t employ unusual camera angles, distracting background movement or off-beat lighting on a simple scene with important dialogue, which requires greater audio than visual attention.
- Do strive always to preserve unity of style throughout a sequence.
If there’s anyone whose advice you’d want to perk up your ears for it’s the self-taught, self-made filmmaker Robert Rodriguez. Here’s some I found to be worthy of a compilation. The first bit is the age old advice anyone would give you, as it applies to essentially anything in life, but the second’s a good piece on how to rewire your brain.