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Where Do i Put the Camera

Where Do i Put the Camera

|Views: 20|Likes:
Published by John Clement
Narrative cinematography is not about pretty pictures. Every shot/scene/sequence must do one of two things: reveal character or advance the action. Both at the same time? That’s golden.
Narrative cinematography is not about pretty pictures. Every shot/scene/sequence must do one of two things: reveal character or advance the action. Both at the same time? That’s golden.

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: John Clement on Apr 17, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Where do I put the camera? — covering scene “events”
John Clement
Watch a lot, learn a lot
In prep for our series we watch a lot of movies and television drama series (sometimes wholeseasons) on DVDs from more than a dozen countries. Most we just watch and enjoy (or not). Butsome we watch and enjoy but then go back to watch and learn.
Temple Grandin
is one ofthose.
Temple Grandin
is a 2010HBObiopic about anautisticwoman who became one  America’s top scientists in the humanehandling of livestock in the food productionindustry. It’s not a great movie, just a goodmovie — made-for-television withinconstraints of budget and time but well-crafted in every way.What we learned re-watching
came from the actor-friendlyblocking and staging of the scenes and theeconomical, motivated scene
by avery experienced Director,Mick Jackson.The coverage throughout was so fit and rightthat at the end of our first screening we hadsome questions; one was: Why did he expend so much time and energy on the coverage of partof a scene (really just a simple action) early in the film — “Temple climbs over a fence”?
Preparation is the most important thing a Director 
does… What I do mostly is a shot  list and a lot of floor plans of all the sets. I map out where everybody is and I map mcoverage out so I know where I’ll be at any given moment. I do it so, if I had to cut that scene that night, I could 
. —Joe Chappelle, Director and Co-ExecutiveProducer,
The Wire
Three questions
David Mametsays there are three questions a director asks him- or herself:
What’s the scene about?
What do I tell the actors?
Where do I put the camera?
1. / 6
DramaLabs — Botswana 
 As a director, these are not the questions tobe asking yourself on the day. You startasking somewhere around your third orfourth read-through of the script (you needto grasp the story and the needs and wantsof its characters before anything else). Youcontinue working on the answers incollaboration with your actorsthrough
, during locations recce,and in discussions (started early on) with thecinematographer (with an eye to budget andtime constraints) — and don’t forget the editor!
Every scene has its own rhythm
You want to search for any little way to heighten the reality without wrecking it, and taking the audience out of the film. — John Seale , Cinematographer 
CinematographerEd Lachmansaid in an interview that every scene has its own rhythm. At thetime he was warning against inappropriate use of hand-held camerawork, but the statement“every scene has its own rhythm” stands true on its own.
Rhythm is discovered in a scene, not stamped on it.
The rhythm of a scene originates from,among other things, the script
, theactors’ beats, and the physical actions andactivities (the
 ) done by, caused byand affecting a character. In the end it allcomes down to coverage and editing.Inappropriate or inadequatecoverage cannot be fixed in post.The job of coverage is to place the camera inthe right place(s) at the right time for the rightreasons to capture and to give visuallyappropriate meaning to the actions of thecharacters and the events of the
story *
as it unfolds.
*See our post:What we mean when we talk about “story”…
2. / 6
DramaLabs — Botswana 
Narrative cinematography is not about pretty pictures. Every shot/scene/sequence mustdo one of two things: reveal character or advance the action. Both at the same time?That’s golden.
Temple Grandin climbs over a fence
The “Temple climbs over a fence” event occurs (minus opening title sequence) about 10 minutesinto the film. The running time is a bit over 36 seconds (represented in the frame-capturestoryboard above and the shot list below). It’s close to real-time coverage with no repetition ofactions to extend time or editing out of actions to compress it.We’re 10 minutes into a near 2-hour movie. Some of what’s been established so far aboutTemple is that she’s in her late teens; she’s autistic; she’s come from the city of Boston to a newand strange environment (her aunt’s cattle farm in the rural Southwestern US);
people make heruncomfortable
; and
she doesn’t like to be touched or held
. (All of this, and more, has beenshown, not told.)The activity (first two unnumbered shots in the storyboard above) preceding the covered eventhas Temple characteristically alone working on a gate opening contraption of her own designwhen her attention is drawn to the kraal* by the sound of a cow mooing.
*What Americans call a “corral”.
3. / 6

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