Directing In Motion

Alysse Campbell - August 6, 2014

As a Producer, I’m constantly looking for ways to inject creativity into my work. Most days are filled with emails and to-do lists, so I was thrilled to hitch a ride with Daniel and Spike to Charlotte for Vincent Laforet’s Directing in Motion Tour.

The full day day workshop challenged me and four coworkers to think differently about cinematic motion. Through theory-based discussion and hands on learning, we discovered how moving a camera or moving things within a shot impact your story. The biggest lesson was simple: Don’t move the camera without a purpose. There should always be a reason for the camera to push forward or pan left. Often, this reason is because of movement within your frame (when a character stands up and starts walking through the room, the camera will naturally follow), but another reason for camera movement is to build tension.

Throughout the day, Laforet emphasized the importance of tension. When you think about it, tension is at the core of all video. You become engaged in a story because of tension, and when said tension is released, you’re left with a sense of fulfillment. There are a lot of ways to build tension in film. Music and lighting are obvious ways to keep the audience on the edge of their seat, but cinematography plays a big role as well.

Take a horror movie, for example. By starting a scene with a close-up on a terrified woman’s face, you can immediately tell she is scared. Why? That question of the unknown allowes the audience’s imagination to run wild. The longer the shot is held on her face, the longer the audience is dreaming up unknown terrors. Until you cut to a wider shot and reveal the scene, the tension will continue to build.

Another way to build tension is to move the camera closer and closer to an object throughout a scene. If your characters are robbing a bank, you’d most likely see wide shots of them walking through the lobby. As their nerves kick in, the shots turn to medium close-ups. When they slip a note to the cashier, you cut to an extreme close-up to show her scared eyes, and then the determined eyes of your robbers. By moving from wide to close-up shots, you can easily build tension. Then, with some music cues and quick pacing, you’ve got yourself a successful scene.

Although I don’t create shot lists or block scenes in my daily work, Directing in Motion was a great way to get back into the creative side of filmmaking. I’ve found myself watching TV and movies differently these days, and I am looking forward to seeing the Myriad team put these tools into motion!