« Eastbound | Main | The Independent Film Festival of Boston »

April 20, 2008

The Prophet I Raise Up Out Of This Boy Will Burn Your Eyes Clean

It feels good to get gone.


I hit the sixty minute mark in St. Nick the other night. The scenes are finally starting to flow. I realized at some point the other day that those 30, 40, 45 minutes I've been working on only comprised the first act of the story, and I decided to just move on and return later with the perspective that the full narrative will provide. Now I'm working on my favorite scene - one we made up on the spot on one of the very last days - and I just want to keep watching it over and over again. We tried to get a lot of scenes in single master shots that were never quite as perfect as they needed to be to work without coverage, but here is a shot-reverse-shot scene that is so perfect it doesn't even need the reverse.

I was talking to Ronnie Bronstein last night about working in static master-shots, and how I often have a lot of trouble getting them right. He pointed out the biggest problem I'm having with them is probably that they're in English. Touché!

Posted by David Lowery at April 20, 2008 12:10 AM


For static masters to work you really need to choreograph the action to take advantage of the composition. Woody Allen, in his Gordon Willis days, used tons of static wides; often they'd stage it so the actors were moving in and out of frame. Manhattan offers quite a lot of examples (spiral staircase, 59th St. bridge, etc.) that usually create a compositional harmony wherein the actors can move about.

It probably helps to have a decent background in theater. Most film directors think more in terms of using the camera to dictate the action rather than staging the scene in a manner to motivate the camera.

Posted by: mutinyco at April 20, 2008 8:07 PM

There's definitely something theatrical about it - using the edges of the frame like the proscenium of a stage.

This applies, too, to master shots on the move. I think that finishing the scene in camera, as Gus Van Sant describes it in that last issue of Filmmaker, requires a sort of discipline that both contradicts and further explores Bresson's ideas of cinema as an art solely set apart from theater.

I think my problem is mostly a lack of time to get it right, compacted by a need for it to be right in the filmic sense and not come off as a stage play. I give the actors freedom to abandon the script and be spontaneous, but within those master shots, that spontaneity needs to be flawless in the same way that a theater performance must be.

Or something like that.

Posted by: Ghostboy at April 21, 2008 12:43 AM