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The Director’s Chair Issue #128 – Mar. 12, 2012 (Basic Film Blocking Techniques)

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March 12, 2012                Scene 13 – Take 3

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Publisher: Peter D. Marshall
Email: mailto:pdm@actioncutprint.com
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1. Introduction
2. Bonuses for Subscribing to The Director’s Chair
3. FEATURE ARTICLE: Basic Film Blocking Techniques
4. Subscriber Shameless Self-Promotion
5. Filmmaking Links of Interest
6. Product Promotion and Film Workshops
7. Subscribe and Unsubscribe Information
8. Copyright Information

1. Introduction

Welcome to Issue #128 of The Director’s Chair, March 12, 2012

1. After many years of using the same format, I will be slowly
changing the look of The Director’s Chair. Starting today,
this ezine will be shorter and focus more on the feature
article and filmmaking links of interest. I will also
eventually be going to an all HTML design format. Enjoy 🙂

2. Feature Article – The feature article this month is called:
Basic Film Blocking Techniques: Blocking is simply “working
out the details of an actor’s moves in relation to the
camera.” (Read full article below.)

3. Please send any comments, suggestions, questions or advice
to: mailto:pdm@actioncutprint.com

2. Two Bonuses For Subscribing To The Director’s Chair

Thank you very much for subscribing to this ezine.

BONUS #1 – Here is the link to download Day One (30 pages) of
“The Art and Craft of the Director Audio Seminar.”

BONUS #2 – Here is the link to download the first 26 pages of
the “Script Breakdown and Film Scheduling Online Course.”


3. FEATURE ARTICLE: Basic Film Blocking Techniques
Blocking is simply “working out the details of an actor’s
moves in relation to the camera.” Think of blocking as the
choreography of a dance or a ballet: all the elements on the
set (actors, extras, vehicles, crew, equipment) should move in
perfect harmony with each other.For a first time Director, blocking a scene can be one of the
most frustrating and terrifying parts of your job. If you
don’t understand the concept of blocking and staging, and you
don’t know how to speak the actor’s language, you could end up
wasting valuable shooting time.Blocking and staging a scene with actors and crew takes
practice, and the more times you actually get to set and do it,
the more comfortable you will become.

(1) Whenever you start blocking a scene, you must know 5 things:

1. What is the LAST shot of the previous scene (Sc. 21)
2. What is the FIRST shot of the scene you are blocking (Sc. 22)
3. What is the LAST shot of the scene you are blocking (Sc. 22)
4. What is the FIRST shot of the next scene (Sc. 23)
5. When (and where) were the characters LAST SEEN

(2) A Director’s blocking plan (or shot plan) is determined by:

1. What distance are you from the subject? (The size of shot:
are you close or far)
2. What is your relationship to the subject? (The angle of
view: choice of lenses)

(3) Actors move on a film set for basically three reasons:

1. To express their character.
2. To define their relationship with other characters.
3. To physically change the shot.

(4) The opening position of a character is where the character
starts in a scene and is a very important element of blocking

1. Different character types tend to move to different places
in the room. For example:
– strong characters could move to the middle of room
– weak characters could move to the side of room

(5) There are two kinds of movement between characters:

1. Toward or Away: when you change the space between
characters, you indicate a change in the relationship.
a. A character walking towards another character could indicate anger
b. A character walking away from another character could indicate fear

2. Moving or Still: character movement also expresses
opposition and resistance.
a. Moving characters can create lots of energy (dynamic)
b. Still characters can create less energy (peaceful)

(6) There are two ways to Stage Space:

1. Staging across the frame.
a. Left to right
b. Right to left

2. In-depth staging.
a. Foreground to background
b. Background to foreground

(7) Four Basic Staging Techniques for the Camera

1. Static camera (camera doesn’t move)
a. Subjects can be still
b. Subjects can be moving

2. Moving camera (camera moves)
a. Subjects can be still
b. Subjects can be moving

3. Static subjects (subject doesn’t move)
a. Camera can be still
b. Camera can be moving

4. Moving subjects (subject does move)
a. Camera can be still
b. Camera can be moving

(8) Four Reasons to Move the Camera

1. Move for emphasis (the camera moves into an actor)
2. Move to emphasize a subject in a group (pan or dolly)
3. Transfer attention from one subject to another (pan or focus)
4. To connect movement from one space to another (door to desk)

(9) Camera Height

Camera height is used to show the physical relationships (or
status) between people. In real life, there are two kinds of
status relationships:

1. Equal to equal (good cop and bad guy / doctor and lawyer)
2. Superior to inferior (judge and defendant / teacher and student)

(10) The 180 Degree Rule

The “180 degree rule” states that if two characters are filmed
in a scene, there is an invisible line between them. The
camera should only be positioned within the 180 degrees on one
side of that line.

“The Line” is also referred to as the imaginary line and the
action axis. Coverage is shot from one side of this line to
preserve consistent screen directions for all participants.
Complex scenes involving multiple characters and physical
groupings may have more than one axis. (Example: dinner scenes
and fight scenes.)

“Crossing the line” will result in a jump cut. If you end up
crossing the line, two characters’ that are talking to each
other will look like they’re not talking to each other when
the film is cut.

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4. Subscriber Shameless Self-Promotion (Free Advertising)

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For 2012 SCI-FI-LONDON is once again running it’s 48-hour Film
Challenge, the same one that saw success for Gareth Edwards
parleyed into the successful feature debut ‘Monsters’.

The challenge weekend is 14-16 April, a few weeks before
SFL11, to allow time for judging and so that every entry, and
the winning films, can be screened during the festival. For
2012 we can confirm Vertigo Films are offering another feature
film development deal to the winners!

Taking part is easy:

1. Get a crew together, scout some locations, prep your cast
and be ready to make a 5 minute short film in just 48 hours.

2. Get one member of your team to the Apollo Piccadilly on
Saturday 14 April at 10.30am. They will receive:

The TITLE of their film
A line of DIALOGUE that must be used in the film
A list of PROPS that must be seen in the film

This year we introduce a scientific theme selected by the
science section of The Guardian newspaper. This might be
anything; nano-technology, cloning, gene-splicing or something
a little more “fringe”… The ‘Guardian will also be following
the challenge and hosting some of the finished films on their

3. You have until Monday morning to deliver the completed
movie to us.

So why bother?

Well in 2008 Gareth Edwards won the competition. Gareth’s
debut feature is the multiple award-winning MONSTERS, and the
project was green-lit because Vertigo Films saw his winning
48-hour short-film right here!

Could this be the stepping-stone to your feature film debut?

More information, including the list of judges can be found
at: http://www.sci-fi-london.com/48-hour-film-challenge

(2) Michael McCarthy: We are shooting a a feature length
zombie film in Northern Colorado in the next few weeks.

Our goal is to create a high quality commercial film using a
low cost and small labor system approach.

‘Genesis’ tells the story of a group of people who take refuge
in a farmhouse at the dawn of the apocalypse. At it’s heart,
it is an homage to the 1968 George A. Romero classic ‘Night of
the Living Dead’.

Please check us out!


5. Filmmaking Links of Interest

1. Edward Burns says on-demand viewing options key for indie
filmmakers http://su.pr/3zBdo6

2. The power of “don’t wait”: Funding lessons from indie
filmmakers http://su.pr/2G3m0d

3. Free Film Making Tools For Filmmakers http://su.pr/2xHtBA

4.Talk shop: Low-Budget filmmaking http://su.pr/1COINM

5. Sell stories rather than tell stories, writes David Spaner
in Shoot It http://su.pr/22jYPC

6. Africa: Women Filmmakers Tell Their Stories

7. The Latest Film-Tech Ingenues http://su.pr/5BFjn5

8. Lights, action, iPhone? Filmmakers turn to smartphones

9. The Original DIY Filmmakers http://su.pr/3opAC4

10. Out of the shadows, cinematographers debate

6. Product Promotion And Film Workshops

From time to time, I will contact you to inform you of film
workshops, filmmaking products or Online courses that I feel
are beneficial to filmmakers like yourself. Of course, you are
under no obligation to purchase anything – I only offer this
information as a service to subscribers of this free ezine.

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8. Copyright Information

Copyright (c) 2000-2012
Peter D. Marshall
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