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SHOW & TELL: A SEMINAR ON WATCHING MOVIES INTELLIGENTLY

DR. DREW TROTTER, PRESIDENT CENTER FOR CHRISTIAN STUDY CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (http://www.studycenter.net)

VISUAL MANIPULATION: THE CAMERA AND ITS USE

I. The movies are manipulation

A. Spielberg: Everything about movies is manipulative; when you walk into the theater you're buying a ticket to manipulation! And all this accusation about how manipulative we are-perhaps more specifically I am-is nonsense, because the whole process is manipulating something that wasn't, until you got into the theater and then it is.
Siskel: That's why we all go to the theater. Spielberg: It's why we go to the movies. Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, The Future of the Movies, 76.

B. "When a moviegoer remains preoccupied with dialogue, remaining literary-conscious rather than shot-conscious, he ends by looking at a window as if it were a wall." Roy Huss and Norman Silverstein, The Film Experience, 24.

II. The Script is the starting point; the camera is ending point

A. Camera-to-Subject Distance
  1. Largely determined by lens (can be placement of camera)
  2. Five types of shot: long, extreme long, medium, close-up, extreme close-up
    a. Long shot (Extreme Long Shot): Distances us from subject matter
    b. Medium shot: chest and shoulders: Normal view
    c. Close up (Extreme close-up): Engages us with subject matter

B. Camera-to-Subject Movement and Angle
  1. Two types of camera movement: 1) in place or static; 2) on device which moves or dynamic
  2. Static Camera Movements: Creates stasis - philosophical
  3. Dynamic Camera Movement: Creates dynamism - practical
  4. 5 Types of Angles
      a. Bird's Eye View: From directly above, straight down.
      b. High Angle (Down angle) Shot: Power, God's view
      c. Eye Level Shot: Director's point of view
      d. Low Angle (Up angle) Shot: Gives power to object
      e. Worm's Eye View: Straight up.

C. Composition within frame 1. Placement of objects in relation to camera: character proxemics
      a. Distance from camera
         i. Intimate: 0-18 inches: Casablanca (Chapter final close-ups between Rick and Ilsa)
         ii. Personal: 18 inches - 4 feet: On the Waterfront (Chapter 20: Brando and Steiger in the car)
         iii. Social: 4-12 feet: Lawrence of Arabia (Chapter 8: O'Toole and First Guide: the giving of the gun)
         iv. Public: beyond 12 feet (up to 25 feet, beyond that usually indiscernible): Gone With the Wind (Chapter 21: The Wounded in Atlanta)
         v. Changing back and forth between these creates movement of plot without action: Casablanca (Chapter 34: Rick & Ilsa)

  b. Face in relation to camera
         i. Full front: open, vulnerable, honest (Casablanca: Chapter 15: "Of all the gin joints")
         ii. 1/4 turn: opening
         iii. Objective: no relation: Avalon 
         iv. 3/4 turn: closing
         v. Full back: closed, protective, dishonest
  c. Characters in relation to each other, camera: composition within the frame Godfather (Chapter 20: "I never wanted this for you.")
         i. Strong: right center, high, foreground
         ii. Weak: left center, low, background
  2. Open or closed form

D. Movement within frame
  1. Left to right: positive, good
  2. Right to left: negative, bad
  3. Front to back: distancing, objectivity
  4. Back to front: intimacy, subjectivity

Back to Viewing Tips

Proceed to "Seven Questions to Ask"