Shot Breakdown 001: HEAT (1995)


It’s here. Introducing a little idea I’ve based on how John McTiernan approached studying films outside of actually making them. Breaking down a commercial, music video, or a film is in no way a new way of studying the art of filmmaking – at least its editorial and visual aspects. This has been done by virtually every filmmaker. This is also an approach many of the world’s strongest film schools actually favor in the classrooms (that is, if the professor is good)

“What he used to make me memorize was the shots. He’d say, “Ok, learn that movie!” – by learn that movie he meant; you sit down with a bunch of pile of paper and pencils and write – shot for shot – the movie from memory. I learned a bunch of movies that way. I learned 8 1/2 that way which is a very complex film. I learned Clockwork Orange…His notion was that if you really wanna become a filmmaker, you have to get that conversant. You have to be able to carry that much in your mind. . . .he made me learn to think of movies as a chain of images where you would fashion the entire chain of images. Just like a music student could hold a concerto in his mind, you should hold the movie in your mind; the images – nevermind the words, the images – “Where is the camera for that shot. What kind of lens was it? What was the camera doing?” – on every shot, on every one of – well most movies have about a thousand shots.” – John McTiernan

For anyone who’s been following this little blog for almost a year now are hopefully quite aware of what a huge proponent I am of reverse engineering the visual medium to the point of scrutiny in order to study how a moving narrative is put together. Of course it’s not the ONLY thing one should be doing, but it is most certainly one of the most important concepts that’s important to grasp.

I’ve broken down every shot of Michael Mann‘s Heat and then some (down to actor’s ever changing facial expressions and body movements + camera movements) just so the act of looking at every shot doesn’t lose the power that watching the actual film has, because the details are all kept in the breakdown (minus sound) – but we’re not concentrating on sound here.

So without further banter…





24 thoughts on “Shot Breakdown 001: HEAT (1995)

  1. Thanks for this! I want to do that for other movies, can you tell me what program did you use to put all the pictures in one file with this layout?


  2. Clockers, 8 1/2, raging bull, a prophet, the passenger, the master, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, taxi driver. can i get your feed back on something??

      • i have 2 of those books, i have these PDF’s i could pass off to you idk if you have read them, “visual absurdity in raging bull,” 2 PDF’s from pta’s camera OP Colin Anderson from twbb & the master and 1 from the cinematographer from Carlos on shooting 2 perf

  3. You are SO amazing! Heat is one of my favourite films! If you ever decide to contest an election, my vote’s for you. I reside in India btw! 🙂

    Thanks again!

  4. Am more interested in getting behind the scenes info on the making of the film HEAT, the Warner Bros research library you Americans have there in Burbank has been no help to me at all, must be cos I am in New-Zealand!!!…and why is it there is a friggen book on how they made the film TITANIC but not HEAT??.( a detailed book like TITANIC that is) of which am TRYING TO put together!.


  5. Hey, after downloading the heat.pdf, it doesn’t open. The error message says the file is damaged. I get the same message for the rest of the films’ shot beakdown pdf (like Die Hard etc.).

    Could you please check the pdf and then re-upload it. I am looking forward to learn a lot. Your blog is what I was searching for more than a year.

    Thanks and Cheers!!!!!

    • Thanks for letting me know about that. You’re one of the first to mention this. A lot of people downloaded but I guess nobody cared enough to comment if it was broken. It opens up fine for me. I’m a bit preoccupied right now – but I’m going to take a look to see what’s wrong.

      Sometimes the PDF may crash when you scroll too fast, which DOES happen with these files – but I just reopen and go slowly – and I can view everything. It could be one of those issues that’s out of my hands? I dunno

      • It is quite possible for a file to get damaged if there’s an interrupted download. I’ve had that happen to me quite often. Didn’t have any issues with this one though.

      • Thanks for replying. But I still find this problem. The file is damaged.
        The same happens to Die Hard.pdf. Both would not open.

        May I request you to upload a fresh pdf file and then download for yourself to check it’s not damaged, so that I can download it. It would be an immense help from your side! Looking forward to the pdf files…

      • I’ve downloaded the heat.pdf just to check if it opens and it does. The issue you are having is the same one I have described earlier. If you scroll through the PDF file at great speed (I’m talking, skipping 10-15 pages in one mouse drag or whatnot) – then it will freeze up. That’s something that happens to all these PDFs unfortunately. But if you scroll through at a moderate speed – IT’S FINE.

        As I mentioned earlier, I’m preoccupied with other things right now and I just can’t look for other ways to create PDFs since the current way works regardless. And seems to do so for others. But in the future I may come back to creating PDFs in other ways.

  6. Pingback: Michael Mann's 'Heat': A Complex, Stylistically Supreme Candidate for One of the Most Impressive Films of the Nineties • Cinephilia & Beyond

  7. if i have to break down the shots on paper how do i do? what all should i write?
    and the pdf is not getting downloaded
    it will be really nice of u if u reply

  8. Pingback: ‘Heat’: Michael Mann’s Meticulous Masterpiece of Both Style and Substance That Transcends Genre • Cinephilia & Beyond

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