How to Block a Shot like a Master Director

When it comes to directing, the fine art of blocking and composition is a skill set that separates a good filmmaker from a great filmmaker.

Blocking is cinematic choreography. Simply, it’s the precise movement of an actor in relation to the camera.

Think about it – who decides where and how actors will move during a scene and when and how they will deliver each line of dialogue. Answer: The Director. And how the director answers these questions will significantly shape a movie.

Most aspiring (and even some seasoned) filmmakers overlook the power of good blocking and they do so at their own expense – as well as that of the audience.

This superb video essay from Dan Fox delves into this much overlooked and under appreciated directing skill, and how the clever staging of actors and camera movement can enhance a cinematic moment and reel your audience in.

If you’re a budding filmmaker that wants to direct think carefully about every scene in your film. Think about different ways to direct, ways that don’t just involve a shot/reverse shot formula.

Seek inspiration from the films you love and don’t simply point the camera at ‘talking heads’. But above all – don’t be boring. Remember you’re telling a story and your direction is how you weave that story. If you’re asking people to spend their time and money – you better entertain them!

Watch. Enjoy and learn.

How Hitchcock Blocks a Scene

Here’s a fantastic video breakdown by the one and only Nerdwriter on YouTube. He talks you through an early scene from the film Vertigo and discusses how Alfred Hitchcock says so much – not through dialogue but through the positioning of the actors.

I’ve embedded the video below, as you watch it ask yourself how you might block the scene, are you you’re pushing yourself beyond the mechanics of visual storytelling (wides, mids, close ups etc)? Good blocking of both actors and cameras is something we don’t see very often these days and it’s a great shame. Not only is it an incredibly valuable storytelling tool, but it requires consideration, understanding and mastery to implement successfully. Surely, at the end of it all, that’s what we’re all striving for.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, who are your other favourite directors for their blocking? Spielberg is our number 1. 

P.s. If you’re not currently subscribed to The Nerdwriter I’d highly recommend it; check him out for all things art, culture, politics and movies. Always an interesting watch!

Secrets Behind the Cinematography of The Revenant

I’ve recently discovered this in-depth video breakdown by the Cinematography Database for The Revenant shot by now three-time Academy Award winning director of photography and master of the craft, Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki.

Header-Logo-220x80This video is part of a much larger body of work by DoP and all-round awesome guy, Matt Workman.

Matt’s passion is clear to see, his knowledge base vast and his attention to detail is inspiring. And what he has created and is continuing to build is an incredibly thorough and informative “resource for modern cinematographers”.

Seriously, I am blown away by the depth of knowledge shared in this video and if you are at all interested in studying and learning from the masters, you should just sit and watch this video over and over.

Character Costumes

COSMOS Banner Character Costume

COSMOS MOVIE PRODUCTION BLOG 21:
CHARACTER COSTUMES


“What a costume designer does is a cross between magic and camouflage. We create the illusion of changing the actors into what
they are not. “ — Edith Head

Costume Design, as the name suggests, is the creation of costume or clothing for a character in film, tv or theatre. The development of this overall appearance contributes heavily to the believability of the world and its population in a particular story.

Costume styles vary significantly depending on gender, nationality, geography, class, period, economics, religion, season and even character backstory. Historical dramas obviously rely heavily on believable and accurate character costume. Science fiction obviously accesses artistic license to the same effect.

Costume design is so impactful on the filmmaking process, that sometimes iconic movie characters are inseparable from their iconic costume. A leather jacket and fedora can only belong to one man… and if adventure had a name… it must be Indiana Jones! 

But remaining faithful to the old movie maxim, why tell, when you can show…? here is a collection of insightful vignette videos all about the costume design process and its value to the production, the actors and the audience. Enjoy.

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What Is COSMOS?

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COSMOS MOVIE PRODUCTION BLOG 2:
WHAT IS COSMOS?


What’s COSMOS? And what happened to ENCOUNTER?!

So, here’s the deal. For those of you that don’t know, back in 2010 Zander and I went into development on an independent feature called Encounter; a 120 minute sci-fi thriller intended for theatrical distribution (aim for the top right, why not?)

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After writing a script (’09-’10), putting together a budget and production schedule, and attaching a core team of esteemed film industry professionals (’10-’11), we began the long and unenviable task of trying to raise the finance. (Video production blogs of all that work can be found here). We worked with a corporate-finance team to develop a solid business plan and strategy and began approaching potential investors at the beginning of 2012. And although we had some brilliant meetings with some very receptive parties who were excited by the project, the recurring comment was that we, as the Directors, were the weak link in the project. And that, is a very fair point.

The budget for Encounter is not small, we’re not going to go into it now but suffice to say it’s a significant sum of money to trust to two blokes who’ve never actually directed a feature before. We’re experience directors in shorts and TV and we know we can make this film but we’re also not naive to the risks of film production.

And this is where Cosmos comes in. At the beginning of 2013 we had a choice to make; do we continue to push ahead with Encounter and work away until we secure the finance, or do we take a slight detour, make a much lower budget indie that proves we can see a feature through to the end (which is also hopefully good!!) and in turn be able to use that film to get Encounter off the ground?

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Follow The COSMOS Movie Blog

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COSMOS MOVIE PRODUCTION BLOG 1:
FOLLOW US!


“THE TRUTH FINDS US”

ACCESS ALL AREAS:

Please follow the production of this Feature Film for weekly and monthly updates on Production News, Casting Calls and Crew Jobs.

We know that filmmakers are generally secretive about their work, teasing a few behind-the-scenes photos here and there. But with COSMOS we’re giving you an access-all-areas pass to watch the full production of the film on its journey from script-to-screen.

  • Sit in on the script writing process.
  • Watch storyboard art turn into reality.
  • Follow the edit and visual effects process.
  • Get to know the cast and crew.
  • Hear the soundtrack evolve from a concept piece to concert piece.

We want to share this journey with you; become part of our crew and follow all the on and off-set action through our exclusive video blogs, on-set b-rolls and articles written by cast and crew; all available exclusively on this blog and our official COSMOS Twitter.

With delivery of this film scheduled for Winter 2014, this is sure to be a fast-paced, seat-of-your-pants insight into ‘how it’s made’.

Our next posts are about WHY we’re making this film and HOW the idea evolved.

Thanks for your support and if you have anything you’d specifically like us to feature, please get in touch.


 

Ell & Zand

Zand & Ell

Elliot Weaver & Zander Weaver
Directors/Producers
COSMOS Team @CosmosMovie

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