The Director’s Chair Issue #151 – March 4, 2014 (Scene Tectonics: Building Blocks of Drama)
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March 4, 2014 Scene 15 – Take 3
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2. Bonuses for Subscribing to The Director’s Chair
3. Slates for Sarah Jones
4. My 2014 Film Workshop Schedule
5. FEATURE ARTICLE: Scene Tectonics: Building Blocks of Drama
6. Film Directing Coach Services
7. Subscriber Shameless Self-Promotion
8. Filmmaking Links of Interest
9. Product Promotion and Film Workshops
10. Copyright Information
Welcome to Issue #151 of The Director’s Chair, March 4, 2014
1. The Feature Article this month is called: Scene Tectonics: The
Building Blocks of Drama by Jeffrey Michael Bays. “We live in the
midst of a “gold rush” of filmmaking. It’s a time when equipment
is cheaper than ever, and an influx of directors are out there
making films, hoping to find gold. But, instead of a precious
metal they are looking for a different kind of gold – a golden
emotional connection with their audience. Without it, their
efforts will be for nothing. But, what’s the best way to find
this emotional connection?” (Read full article below.)
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3. Slates for Sarah Jones (In Memoriam)
As you probably know by now, Sarah Jones, a 27-year-old camera
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The film industry around the world has responded by creating a
Facebook page called “Slates For Sarah” where film colleagues can
post film slates dedicated to Sarah.
You can add to this ever growing list by posting your slates here:
Here is more info on “Slates for Sarah”
4. My 2014 Film Workshop Schedule (March)
I have one 2-day filmmaking workshops booked in March in Toronto.
If you are interested in participating in this workshop, please
email the contact person I have included with the workshop link
1. March 8 & 9 – Toronto, Canada
Contact: Jaimy Warner
5. Feature Article: Scene Tectonics: Building Blocks of Drama
Scene Tectonics: The Building Blocks of Drama by Jeffrey Michael
We live in the midst of a “gold rush” of filmmaking. It’s a time
when equipment is cheaper than ever, and an influx of directors
are out there making films, hoping to find gold. But, instead of
a precious metal they are looking for a different kind of gold –
a golden emotional connection with their audience. Without it,
their efforts will be for nothing. But, what’s the best way to
find this emotional connection?
This is the undercurrent question of my new book ‘Between the
Scenes’ as I explore how directors can use scene changes as smart
tools for provoking their audiences’ empathies. I call it scene
tectonics, a way of looking at how your scenes, sequences, and
acts fit together. Just like the Earth’s tectonic plates collide
and create earthquakes, mountains, and volcanoes, in a similar
way your scenes create drama when they’re placed together.
Scene tectonics brings your mind-set away from the
compartmentalized scenes and allows you to focus on the true
emotional exchange between character and audience. This top-down
perspective of your story forces you to look between the scenes
and the interaction of the broader puzzle pieces that your film
is comprised of.
Seeing scene boundaries as dramatic tools can open up a whole new
way of thinking about cinematic storytelling:
The most basic thing you can look at as director is how your
locations change from scene to scene. By shifting from a snowy
tundra to a green jungle, you’ve automatically provoked the
audience into thought at the scene transition. Your audience
perceives the new jungle location in comparison to the cold
tundra, and thus internalizes the emotion of this temperature
This is a way of prompting story elements through a process
called binary opposition, where stark contrasts are generated
between two scenes through aesthetic differences (night to day,
quiet to loud, indoor to outdoor, etc.).
This is the same effect that a chess board has with its white and
black squares, making it easy for players to determine where they
can move next. If the chess board and the game pieces were all
white, the confused players would have no time to strategize.
Similarly, if there are no changes in your locations from scene
to scene, your audience will get lost as well.
(2) Impose Boundaries
Another important way scene tectonics can create drama between
your locations is to impose physical scene boundaries into the
world of your characters.
Placing walls, fences, and other obstacles around your locations
have the effect of forcing your character into drama in order to
escape the scene. Inserting doorways and gates can help them
pass through to the next scene.
Characters can even impose the boundaries on each other by
locking a door, thus preventing someone from entering the scene.
Or, a character can slam a door, creating intimidation when they
Now you can force your characters to cross those boundaries and
travel from one scene to the other. Cars, trains, and other
modes of transportation can give your characters dramatic ways to
move between scenes if the locations are far apart.
(3) Travelling Creates Emotion
Travelling through geographic space is one thing film does best,
over all the other performing arts.
When we think of travel in real life, we tend to think of
boredom. Waiting in traffic during rush hour, sitting through a
long flight – these are all moments we’d rather forget. But for
some reason, these moments of travel can be intently captivating
in a movie narrative if they are expressing a character’s
As director, you have a choice as to whether to stay with the
character as the scene changes, follow them on an emotional
reaction, or cut away from them to let the audience feel an
absence and process what has just happened. The scene transition
is where the viewer connects on an emotional level with the
character on the screen. As a big plot revelation shifts the
story, the characters react. If the filmmaker allows us to share
in those reactions, we feel the story.
When you allow your audience to share in this hero’s reaction,
follow them out to the car, on the bus, on horseback, in a
spaceship to a different planet – this is when that audience
feels the most “at one” with the story. At this moment, the
viewer is swept away into the story, fully connected with the
events and the hero. This is the moment when you, as director,
have struck gold.
For an easy-to-use guidebook on exploring that golden connection
to your audience, see ‘Between the Scenes’ now available on
Kindle and bookstores worldwide.
Amazon and Kindle:
Barnes & Nobel and Nook:
Book Depository (free shipping):
Jeffrey Michael Bays is author of ‘How to Turn Your Boring Movie
into a Hitchcock Thriller’ as well as ‘Between the Scenes: What
Every Film Director, Writer and Editor Should Know about Scene
Transitions.’ He is both a director and film scholar with an MA
in Cinema Studies from La Trobe University, Australia. He is
also writer and producer of XM Satellite Radio’s award-winning
drama ‘Not From Space’ (2003), recently listed by Time Out
magazine as among the top five most essential radio plays of all
6. Film Directing Coach – Peter D. Marshall
Actors, Singers and Athletes Have Private Coaches. So Why Not
Film and TV Directors? http://actioncutprint.com/filmdirectingcoach/
Hilary Swank used an acting coach to prepare for her role in Boys
Don’t Cry. She won her first Academy Award.
Singer Renee Fleming has always used a vocal coach. She has won
several Grammy Awards.
Rafael Nadal’s coach urged him on from the sidelines during his
Wimbledon tennis tournament win in 2010.
Arnold Palmer improved his game with the help of a coach. Even
Tiger Woods has had several coaches.
As a matter of fact, winners in nearly every profession
(athletes, actors, singers, business executives) know that
without the right coach, they won’t perform at their peak.
They know that without the support of an experienced and
qualified coach, they would constantly struggle to achieve
So if these top professionals in their respective fields use
coaches, why not film directors?
So why hire me as your film directing coach?
Along with my international teaching experiences and my 39 years
of professional filmmaking experience (as a TV Director and
Feature 1st AD), I feel I have the necessary qualifications to
help you achieve your dreams of being a creative and successful
independent film director.
With that in mind, I would like to introduce you to my Film
Directing Coaching services via Skype:
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1.If you’re reading this right now, that means you’re probably a
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next film. We’ve all been there. I’m currently there right now,
for the second time – for the same movie.
About this time last year I posted a very similar shameless
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Cellmate. I was unsuccessful.
This year, I’m posting another self-promotion, still aimed at
raising the funds for the same movie called Cellmate. (The only
difference is, I’ve improved the script quite a bit, and have
more experience this time around.) Am I perseverant? Maybe.
Stubborn? Almost surely.
You might be wondering, why did I include that introduction? Why
didn’t I just hop right into pitching the movie and posting the
kickstarter link? Because I knew that wouldn’t catch anyone’s
attention. But if you’re still reading by now, chances are you’re
probably going to finish reading what I have to say. Now getting
you to actually donate is an entirely different paradigm
altogether. But I’ll get to that later.
So let me tell you a little bit about my film, Cellmate. (Logline
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jail, who has an unexpected conversation with his cellmate that
reveals a passionate yet troubled boy beneath his apathetic
Now I’m going to be completely honest. It’s a film that I’m
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8. Filmmaking Links of Interest
1. Director McG Shares 6 Golden Rules of Filmmaking
2. 6 Filmmaking Tips from Federico Fellini
3. Why Are There So Few Women Behind the Camera?
4. Very independent filmmaking – what not to do!
5. 5 Filmmaking Tips from David Fincher
6. Philip Bloom On Balancing Art and Business and The Best
Cameras for Low-Budget Filmmaking http://bit.ly/N3tmv4
7. Indie Filmmaking Is Surging Despite the Odds
8. Will 2014 Be the Year That Smartphone Filmmaking Goes
9. Is HD making us a bunch of lazy, un-original filmmakers?
10. How’d They Shoot That? Here’s the Cameras Used By the 2014
Sundance Filmmakers http://bit.ly/1f1FG5M
9. Product Promotion And Film Workshops
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