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…