Category: Directing

How to Film in Space

It’s World Day of Human Space Flight and so many of our favourite movies take place up in the final frontier. Hollywood has been taking film-goers into the sky for decades to give us a taste of what life in zero gravity is really like. Whether you’re excited by the infinite expanse or afraid of what could be out there, Space captivates all of us. But how do filmmakers do it? How do they create Space down on Earth? There are a variety of ways to film in Space, from the practical to the digital, to just going up there yourself.

Practical Effects

Film’s fascination with space travel was alive even before human’s first flight. The 1902 film A Trip to the Moon is a perfect example of this. Often regarded as the first science fiction film ever made, A Trip to the Moon tells the story of a group of scientists who use a cannon-propelled oversized bullet to shoot themselves to the moon (as I said, we hadn’t even nailed down planes yet. Give them a break). Clearly, director George Méliès had never been nor seen the surface of the moon but he was able to recreate it using stunning and intricate visuals. Back in the early 20th century, Méliès relied on painted set design and staged backgrounds that were common in the theatres of the time. While not being the most accurate, it’s still one of the oldest and most successful attempts at filming Space.

In the 21st century, we know what Space looks like, and we know that the moon isn’t inhabitable by strange creatures (at least until they decide to make themselves known). Filmmakers now have a more accurate perception of Space. They also have the technology to recreate as best as they can practically. For 2018’s Lunar Landing film First Man, director Damien Chazelle decided to film in a grey Atlanta quarry. He and his team were able to sculpt and terraform it into a landscape that most resembles the surface of the moon. They then filmed at night using a single light source (perfectly mimicking the Moon’s only light source: the Sun). Chazelle was even quoted as saying “It’s just like the real shoot on the moon.” First Man’s decision to use practical set design for the Moon shows that we have not strayed too far from sci-fi’s first man George Méliès.

Digital Effects

While practical effects are still in use today for recreating Space, digital technology and CGI have allowed filmmakers to recreate Space without lifting a paintbrush or going outside. All that is needed practically is the actors suspended in front of a green screen pretending to interact with objects that aren’t even there. From there, a dedicated team of VFX artists is tasked with constructing the world for the audience. The most famous example is Cuaron’s Gravity. Most of the film takes place outside of a space station in the vastness of outer space. The film features stunning visuals and action sequences that just could not be created practically (I mean, how many takes could you actually do of a one-shot space station destruction?).

Digital effects often allow for more creative freedom when it comes to showcasing Space. However, a drawback is that actors and directors often have less to work with in return due to all the green screen work. Take this clip above, for example, in which Sandra Bullock has to mime turning a nozzle. Of all the CGI in this film, you would never expect the nozzles to be on that list. Regardless, digital effects are still an amazingly complicated feat that often makes us feel as close as we can to Space. It adds a feeling of realism when we can’t actually film up in Space.

Or can we?

No Effects!

That’s right. You heard me. Just go to Space, bring your camera, and get to filming!

Ok so maybe it’s not as simple as that. Yes, it takes millions of dollars just to get a ticket to the ISS, yes, you’d have to times that by the number of people in your crew, and yes, you’d have to pay an exorbitant amount per pound to send your equipment up with you. But it can be done! And it has! In 2008, English-American entrepreneur Richard Garriott spend $30 million dollars (told you it wasn’t cheap) and underwent nearly a year of extensive training to prepare himself for space travel. The result of all this time and money was the short film Apogee of Fear, the world’s first, and currently only, science fiction film actually shot on location (that location being Space). You can watch the film above.

It’s no Interstellar, but that’s not the point. The point is that Space travel is becoming more accessible every day. And, if there’s one thing filmmakers love, it’s to push the boundaries are far as they can to make the art of film the best it can be. So don’t be surprised when you see people like Alfonso Cuarón or Damien Chazelle boarding a commercial flight to Mars. They’re just on their way to work.      

Filed under: Directing, Film History, Filmmaking, ProducingTagged with: , , , ,

The Cinematography of Drive (2011): Light, Shadow And Composition

Hello, I’m Ivan! I’m the new intern here. I am very interested in cinematography and would love to show you some fantastic examples of the art. This week I would like to talk the 2011 film, Drive directed by Nicolas Winding Refn.

The director of photography for the film was Newton Thomas Sigel. He has been working in his field for more than 40 years. Futhermore, he has helped create the visual style for films such as The Usual Suspects (1995), X-Men (2000) and Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). His cinematography has been a massive influence on the superhero, crime and war film genres. This understanding and experience of the rules of cinematography are exemplified in Drive. It is a fantastic study into creative lighting, thoughtful composition, economic shot and camera usage. Therefore, film is a must watch for anyone who wants to see fantastic practical application of skilled cinematography. Before I go into more detail, please have a watch of this short scene in which some of the movie’s core photographic aesthetics are laid out.

One of the things that I find most impressive about this scene is its ability to form meaningful narrative progression without dialogue. This is in part because of the composition of each shot! Notice as well the slow-motion from shot 6 through to shot 8 as it dims the light in combination with the kiss. Through camera action and disjointed rhythmic editing in 26 shots, a story beat (of the main protagonists romance) is established, followed through and completed.

Deep Shadows and Bright Lights

Preparation and planning of lighting in scenes was essential to create the dreamy look of the film. The urban environment of the L.A. night-time setting has a fantastic atmosphere, with dots of neon piercing the darkness of the city perfectly representing the film’s lighting philosophy.

In many interior shots and exposition scenes, a stylised lighting system is used, which often suggests emotional reflections in the characters. This system priorities deep shadows and bright lights to create high contrast ratio lighting in certain scenes.

The lighting system transforms even the most dry exposition scenes into something quite interesting as every facial expression and reaction is given a dramatic twist.

Moving onto the action set pieces, the three car chase scenes in the film stand out for multiple reasons as all require radically different lighting scenarios. Lighting gels and other LED uses were designed by the camera department to be used on car bonnets and dashboards without being particularly visible. Other cameras were set up in fixed camera positions in order to avoid re-shooting costly stunt scenes.

Shot Economy and Camera Usage

The film was shot primarily on an Arri Alexa. While shots on car dashboard and hood are Cannon 5d MII and Iconix HD-RH1 (because of their smaller size). Prime lenses were used for the car interiors, as it allows for a bit more light to get into the camera compared to zoom lenses. Placement and shot amount was also very important to provide coverage for a shoot with a limited amount of time to pre-produce and film.

Speaking to the ASC, Sigel explains that he “was intrigued by the look I could get shooting available light downtown”. The Arri Alexa was used for its ability to shoot high ISO exposure without producing much noise. This was essential for having a large dynamic range of light in the nighttime shots.

Compositional Theory: Opposites and Reflections

One more important aspect of the film is its use of composition. Using both sides and the top/bottom of the frame to show information acts as a quadrant system for the film. It also shows off the complex shot divisions while telling the audience much more than what can be said through dialogue.

Tony Zhong expresses this well in his Every Frame a Painting video: “The director, by emphasising different quadrants, can create shots that are both tightly composed and weirdly unpredictable.”

Final Thoughts

Drive is an accomplished piece of work from a fantastic director working alongside a pro cinematographer with 40 years of experience. The director, Refa has gone on to make some very interesting films such as the Neon Demon (2016) and Only God Forgives (2013). Seigal brought his artistic intuition and professional experties to express the director’s vision of a modern L.A. mythology.

If you enjoyed reading more deeply into the art of cinematography, you may be interested in some of Raindances’ courses on the technical processes of filmmaking. Interested in learning more about using DSLR cameras? We have just the course for you! How about exploring the mysterious practise of editing? There is a brilliant editing basics course for that. If you want to learn the foundations of cinematography from a fantastic and experienced cinematographer we have a basic course coming up soon!

Sources and Thanks:

The Raindance team!

‘Drive’: The Unexpected Urban Western – Jessica Fowler

Shot by Shot Podcast: The Perfect Shots of ‘Drive’- Film School Rejects

Photo stills of Drive (2011)

Interview from Oct 2018 ASC- Road Warriors interview with Newton Thomas Sigel and Nicolas Winding Refn

Technical specs info for Drive (2011)

The Warm Light of a Dark Day: The Cinematography of ‘Drive’- Chris Magdalenski

Filed under: Directing, Filmmaking, In Our OpinionTagged with: , , , , ,

Making the Leap: From Documentaries to Directing Dramatic Feature Films

Over the course of my career I’ve written, produced and directed dozens of hours of non-fiction content for broadcast and cable television and multiple feature length documentaries, several of which received theatrical release. Non-fiction was my specialty.

So, it was a pleasant surprise when in the spring of 2017 one of my non-fiction colleagues made me an offer to write and direct a dramatic feature film on famed Argentinian faith leader Luis Palau.

I knew of Luis Palau because I had been working for several years to secure the rights to direct a documentary on Billy Graham, and from my research I knew Luis was Billy’s Spanish language interpreter in Central and Latin America beginning in the1960s.  He was even later called the ‘Latin American Billy Graham’. Since then Luis has built a worldwide ministry and has preached to tens of millions of people in 75 countries.

While I’ve written all of my documentaries, I don’t by trade write feature dramas. And though many of my documentary films have extensive dramatic reenactments, the chance to direct a feature length drama was an exciting opportunity.

Writing a Feature Drama

My method in writing and directing documentaries is to outline a basic three-act structure, shoot all my interviews and b-roll, gather all the archival material, and then write the script. With a dramatic feature, it is obviously the opposite. The script comes first, is the blueprint for the film, and will influence the choices to be made by the director. To put it another way, my style of directing documentaries was to carve out a film from materials I shot or archived, and continuously sculpt it as new material came in. With my feature drama PALAU, I was shooting the script I wrote.

For my research on the script I read Palau’s autobiography and a dozen other books written by or about him.  I also interviewed Luis at length. Eighty-three at the time, he was inquisitive, clear-eyed and brilliant in his knowledge of a multitude of subjects, a man of deeply sincere faith and very engaging.

I felt it was important to show Luis’ childhood and his early days learning to preach in the streets of his small town in Argentina, his time at seminary school in the United States where he meets his wife Pat, and his breakthrough speech as an evangelist in Bogotá, Colombia, in 1966, a time of intense political turmoil. That story arc offered many dramatic opportunities.

I had four months to write my script, and once my outline was approved by the Palau organization, I went to work. Luis Palau’s many books and videos helped me create his character and inspired the dialogue and plot points.  

The Magic of Casting

Knoblock directing Gaston Pauls

After the Palau team approved my script, the challenge was how to shoot a period piece set in Argentina and Colombia in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s on a budget and in two languages. I traveled to Argentina several times to scout locations and cast the movie.

In Buenos Aires, we cast 10-year-old Agustin Amoedo as young Luis, known as ‘Luisito’. This was Agustin’s first film, and I knew the instant he began to read for us during a casting call that he would be perfect. He had a naturalness and innocence that was exactly what we were looking for.

Early in the film Luisito learns of his father’s (Fabián Carrasco) unexpected death from pneumonia, and Agustin was able to convey a nuanced sense of loss and unease about his future. The prosperous Palau family construction business will be ruined by a former associate of Luis’ father, putting Luisito, his mother (Alexia Moyano) and little sister Martha, (Lola Toledo), into financial peril.

We cast the popular Argentinian television actor Santiago Achaga as Luis Palau, age 22, when he finally acts on his father’s advice and begins to preach in the streets.

The acclaimed Argentine actor Gastón Pauls plays Luis Palau in his late thirties.

We had limited rehearsal time, but did have a table read with the principle cast, which helped all of us to get to know one another and establish trust.

Argentine casting director Norma Angeleri filled in the rest of our South American cast, including Denise Yañez and Manuel Ramos. Michel Noher was also cast.

In the states we cast Alexandra Bard (The Meanest Man in Texas) as Luis’ wife Pat Palau, Daniel Roebuck (Lost, The Fugitive), Scott Reeves (Nashville), Richard Shelton (My Week With Marilyn), Jim Gleason (Ozark), Jason McDonald (Miracle Workers) and singer and actor Darren Dowler as Billy Graham.

Filming a Two-Hour Movie in 17 Days

Knoblock, far left, directs outdoor scene

In pre-production calls over Skype, our South American crew raised legitimate doubts whether we could shoot a two-hour movie in 17 total days, 14 of them in Argentina. But together with Argentinian Unit Executive Producer Guido Goldberg and Production Supervisor Raimundo Bassano, and my first AD Celina Eslava, we had a chance of pulling it off.

I had storyboarded the entire movie, and we had location photos that I took on numerous scouts that helped me pre-block each scene.

For our interiors, we shot in a church in Buenos Aires and in a massive four-story Victorian mansion called Los Olivos, built in the late 19th century, filled with antiques.  

We needed to find a location for our exteriors that was mostly free from modern touches, and we found it in San Antonio de Areco, a beautiful Spanish colonial town two hours north of Buenos Aires.

I had previously sent my DP Dan Rubottom ‘look books’ on the look I was after. We both love great cinematographers, and mentioned most often the work of Roger Deakins, Emmanuel Lubezki, and Bruno Delbonnel.

We shot with two cameras, an Arri Alexa XT and an Alexa Mini. I shot nearly every dialogue scene with both cameras, which really helped us stay on schedule. We used Cooke prime lenses, and an Angenieux Optimo 24-290 zoom, which also allowed us to move quickly.   

When I wasn’t using the B Camera for a dialogue scene, I would send them out to get landscapes and atmospheric shots. Having directed so many documentaries in many budget ranges over the years, I’ve learned not to let a second camera go to waste.

We had incredible period costumes from the acclaimed Facundo Veiras, impeccable production design from Lorena Llaneza, and hair and makeup from Clarisa Reynoso.

Other than my DP and his 1st assistant camera Brian Aichlmayr, the rest of the crew was Argentinian. Communication was never an issue. Argentina has many talented film and television workers and our crew was outstanding.

Back in the United States, Paul Mills and Zack Leffew composed the score.

It’s A Wrap

Because of the dedication of the cast and crew we able to shoot on time and on our two million-dollar budget.

Writing and directing PALAU was an incredible experience. Just before we started shooting in January 2018 in San Antonio de Areco, we learned that Luis was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. It made the whole team even more determined to bring the best they could to the inspiring story of Luis Palau.  

PALAU opens in theaters on April 4th, 2019, in the U.S., Central America and South America.

Filed under: Directing, Documentary, Filmmaking CareerTagged with: , , , ,

How To Get High Caliber Cast for your No Budget Production

My comedy series Relationshit (now on Amazon Prime) was financed out of my own pocket – and has a cast that appeared in Star Wars Rogue One, Mission Impossible, Avengers, and British TV drama.

Getting high caliber cast onto your no budget production may not be as difficult as you think – but there are a few prerequisites to meet.

Write a character they’ve been wanting to play

Like with any job in filmmaking, actors are actors because they love what they do – but many don’t get to explore their full range in the roles they’re currently being offered. This is the space into which your project should fit.

One example that comes up often is roles for female actors aged 60+.

If you write a complex, interesting character in that demographic, your project will stand out in a sea of “just a grandmother” scripts. Someone who only has comedy in their reel may be looking for dramas, someone always playing nice and sweet may be itching to sink their teeth into a darker role.

Be impeccably professional

Start by focusing not on what you will gain from having name cast, but on what you can offer. Your production obviously has to be professional, not just in terms of the result – the material must be showreel worthy for them, since that is what they are getting out of an unpaid project – but also in terms of working conditions.

It’s always important to create realistic, humane schedules and a comfortable environment for your team. But when working with name cast, the chances are much higher that they just won’t tolerate certain shortcomings that a hungry newcomer might.

Set reasonable expectations

Make sure that your ask is sensible in terms of scope. It may be worth casting a name actor not as the lead, but in a supporting role that has fewer shoot days: You’ll still have the prestige of their contribution to your project, and you’re more likely to get two days of unpaid labour from someone than two weeks.

If that’s not right for your production, consider splitting up the shoot into several shorter blocks, rather than one long block. That way, your cast (and crew, and you) can fit the project around other paid work.

Young filmmakers especially are often in a rush to produce and release quickly, but unless you have a serious external deadline, it’s worth spending the extra time for a more impressive end result.

Approach them with respect

Whether you’re approaching an actor directly or through an agent, your email should be concise, but include all necessary information.

  • An outline of the script and the role – I don’t tend to attach the script right away, but I’ll send a summary as well as a little more about the character, and why I think this actor is right for the part.
  • Who’s involved and their level of experience – If you have a director who opened a big festival or was part of a talent lab, absolutely include this here. I like to link to my DP’s reel as well to show the quality of footage to be expected, and I explicitly state that I prioritise good preparation and humane schedules since a lot of no budget productions are eleventy hour long stress fests.
  • A brief acknowledgment that shows you realise it’s a big ask, and how this is mutually beneficial – Don’t make it sound like you’re begging, but include appreciation of the fact that someone of their caliber usually doesn’t work low/no budget, and that you’re asking since you’re financing out of pocket and not because you don’t value their craft. This is where you also show that you’ve considered their perspective and how it will benefit them: You read their tweet about a lack of certain roles, you saw their reel was lacking a certain genre and maybe they are looking to add it?
 If I’m waiting to hear back from them before asking anybody else, I make sure to mention it.

Can’t find a star? Make one.

There are trillions of reasons why you may have a hard time attaching someone to your project that have nothing to do with the quality of your script or the level of your talent.

Sometimes the starts just don’t align.

In that case: Discover talent on the brink of success.

Ingvild Deila, who plays the lead of Zoe, wrote me such an impressive application for Relationshit that, combined with the talent obvious from her showreel, I knew she’d go on to do big things. It didn’t take long: Just before we wrapped, she became, oh, no big deal, Princess Leia in Star Wars Rogue One!

Privilege and luck are not to be discounted as ingredients to success, but indicators I look for are initiative, diligence, and that air of je ne sais quoi. If you find somebody who actively seeks out and creates opportunities for themselves, shows up impeccably prepared and keeps a positive, professional attitude under stress, you may be working with someone who’s about to get hired on something bigger.

Likewise, if you have a unique project that promises to do well with audiences, your film or series might be what gets your cast discovered.

It’s Not The End Of The World

If all of this fails, do not despair. Name cast is a great marketing tool, but actors who were lucky to find recognition aren’t necessarily better at acting than the cast you currently have access to.

Focus on making the project in front of you the best it can be in your unique circumstances. Everything else is just gravy.

Relationshit is now out on Amazon in the UK & US, and on Vimeo On Demand globally, with a Q&A on the website and a Podcast on Mentorless.

To stay in the loop, follow @relationshitTV on Twitter, like the Facebook page, or sign up to the mailing list on

Filed under: Acting, Directing, FilmmakingTagged with: , ,

[BOOK REVIEW] Shoot Like Tarantino: The Visual Secrets of Dangerous Storytelling

Ask anyone for a list of the most prolific and artistic filmmakers, and Quentin Tarantino will most likely be on it. His work is so distinctively identifiable that anyone who views one of his films will instantly recognise it as his. In addition to the artistic use of violence on display throughout his works and his way with characters and dialogue, the way he shoots his scenes puts an unmistakable “watermark” on each of his films.

“A huge part of Tarantino’s storytelling comes from his screenwriting and the way he directs actors, but he has such an advance understanding of screen language that he’s able to tell stories more efficiently than most directors.”

In Christopher Kenworthy’s guide, Shoot Like Tarantino: The Visual Secrets of Dangerous Storytelling, Tarantino’s tricks for elevating tension and action are exposed for the reader’s pleasure. Kenworthy, the author of the best-selling Master Shots books, chooses to dive into the visual techniques of Tarantino by analysing some scenes from several of his famous films.

Kenworthy makes a point to say that he didn’t try to learn any background information regarding the scenes he chooses to include. He didn’t want to read about other theories; he just wanted to analyse the scenes as they are and truly discover the technical aspects behind the shots. He also realises how easy it can be to be sucked into the entire film and gloss over the scenes in question, so he recommends that readers switch off the sound and take in only the visuals.

Before jumping into the first scene, Kenworthy makes sure to disclose the fact that the book will undoubtedly spoil the movies for those who haven’t seen them. Nothing is worse than overhearing a spoiler-filled conversation about a film you were dying to see or scrolling through Twitter only to find that the “twist” ending is no longer going to be one for you. Kenworthy understands this, and he is insistent that readers actually watch the films first before reading the book.

Getting to the actual “meat” of the book is where it gets fascinating. Readers can choose to go the traditional route and read it from start to finish or they may choose to bounce around reading only the chapters of interest. But filmmakers who need this book as a source of inspiration for building unbearable tension in a scene or including a deliberate anticlimax are those who benefit most. They can choose to read only the chapters that address these techniques and quickly get back to shooting their film.

For example, if a reader really wanted to know how to film a group conversation, they can turn to page 105 and read up on how Kill Bill: Vol 2 featured a perfect one. Kenworthy makes it super easy to understand the details that make each scene work by including stills so readers can clearly see what he is getting at.

In the case of Kill Bill: Vol. 2, he breaks down the famous flashback chapel scene. This scene, which has been shown in glimpses throughout the film, isn’t meant to be a surprise. It’s meant to be a culmination of what the viewer already knows is inevitable. The art of this scene comes from the interaction between the characters and how they are placed.

“When two groups are talking, shoot the main characters from several positions, but shoot the minor characters from one angle. This will help the audience identify with the main characters.”

By following this method, the audience will feel closer and more connected with the main character, while the characters shot from one angle feel more distant and disconnected. The way this scene was shot put an emphasis on showing the characters in what may seem to be a normal situation, but slowly building a sense of unease. The unease is heightened with the introduction of a new character.

“When you’ve established a group conversation and dynamic, cutting to an additional character who interrupts the flow of the scene can increase the sense of impending doom.”

Kenworthy’s analysis of this particular scene is just one example of what is found in the book. There are great insights to be read and any filmmaker who wishes to even embody an ounce of Tarantino’s mastery can benefit from the information found inside. By no means; however, are the scenes in this book meant to be copied. They are provided only to serve as a starting point or a source of inspiration.

Shoot Like Tarantino: The Visual Secrets of Dangerous Storytelling is a great resource for filmmakers looking to improve the visual impact of their scenes. It allows filmmakers to understand how certain scenes succeed in their efforts and how they can shoot their own. Once a filmmaker reads this book, their ability to craft their own great scenes should greatly improve. And who knows? They may just become the next Tarantino.

Filed under: Book Review, Directing, Filmmaking, In Our Opinion, Technical CraftTagged with: , , , , , ,

6 Ways to Open a Crime Film

Crime films are often defined by their slow-burn pace – a powerful opening is an easy way to keep an audience engaged through the sleuthing to come.

1. Spione

Fritz Lang’s silent films often end well and start well (usually with something of a dip in the middle), and Spione might be the finest example. In this crime-spy thriller, the first few minutes are electric. Documents are stolen, politicians are assassinated, a sinister mastermind revealed. A tone of conspiratorial worry and fear is immediately established at a pace the rest of the film has no hope of keeping. But it doesn’t need to – we are already enraptured.



2. Vertigo

Saul Bass was one of the most acclaimed visual artists of the 1950s, and for good reason. His iconic posters are inseparable from the films they represent, and more than that, his contributions to the title sequence is inimitable. Vertigo begins with psychedelic spinning mandalas, which grow and grow until the audience are subsumed within them. Bernard Herrmann’s score is hypnotic. We then cut to a hand grabbing a rung – a rooftop chase. Our hero, Jimmy Stewart, leaps across to an adjacent building only to botch his landing, holding on by his fingertips. As he looks down, a dolly zoom (the first of its kind) wretches the stomach and establishes the film’s title. An immediately gripping action sequence that contextualises the film to come.



3. Infernal Affairs

Spione opens with haste, but even Lang can’t compete with the sheer economy of Infernal Affairs. The opening credits notwithstanding, the film establishes the film’s fundamental premise within a lightning 5 minutes, detailing the training and then detraining of an undercover officer. Where the Hollywood remake (The Departed) is something of a slovenly beast, Infernal Affairs wastes absolutely no time – though it never quite truncates its narrative to the same intensity as in its first few minutes, the high pace is there to stay.



4. Tokyo Drifter

“I’ll ask you once more, for the third and last time: don’t get me mad.” Seijun Suzuki, master of the Japanese B-movie, is a director of distinct style. Though his films were at the time relegated as cheap and frivolous – largely Yakuza flicks – the sheer verve of his direction sees them become much more. Tokyo Driver, perhaps his pulp masterpiece, opens assuredly. It begins in a stark, ultra-high contrast monochrome – the blacks inky, the whites so bright as to bleach out all detail.

A former Yakuza man restates that he’s out of the game; men attack him, but he doesn’t retaliate. An extreme close up on a mob boss, and then a cut to colour: a man in a yellow jacket caught against a pitch backdrop firing his pistol, with reddened muzzle flashes. Immediately we know this will be a film of gaudy and exciting form, a film about revenge, about a man wronged. “Knock him down three times, then he’ll rage like a hurricane.” Prophetic words – and enticing.



5. Touch of Evil

Regarded not only as one of the finest openings of a crime film, but of all films, Touch of Evil is an exemplar in establishing atmosphere. Shot in a single, complex sequence shot, the camera opens close on a bomb. We see it planted in a car, and then follow this car as its unbeknownst occupants drive it toward the Mexican border. The content of the scene is relatively simple, but this simplicity becomes dread when combined with the knowledge of imminent disaster and the inescapable nature of the long take. This is a scene that functions on the basic requirements of suspense as according to Hitchcock – let the audience know what the characters don’t. A powerful opening to one of Welles’ greatest films.



6. Sexy Beast

Sexy Beast opens on a shot of the sun, then panning to the purple-burnt body of a rotund Ray Winstone sunbathing by a pool. The kind of image that sears itself into the mind alone, though after intercutting with shots of his wife driving toward his Mediterranean abode, it takes on a surreal dimension. From the cliffedge rolls an enourmous boulder, which scarcely misses Winstone’s eponymous (?) character and is subsumed by the pool. The comedic, somewhat leftfield, and doom-laden foundation of Sexy Beast explicated in a few minutes. Not to forget the best needle-drop of the lot – ‘Peaches’ by The Stranglers.



If you’re interested in writing crime, be sure to sign up for our Crime Writing from the Trenches of Hollywood Masterclass by Hollywood-based crime writing consultant Jennifer Dornbush.

Filed under: Directing, Film History, Filmmaking, Screenwriting, Technical CraftTagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Character Fundamentals: The Raging Bulls of Paul Schrader

Paul Schrader’s writing is as varied as it is prolific.

His work often bridges an otherwise untenable gap – that between the ‘transcendental cinema’ of his grad school thesis and the sticky pulp entertainment of the midnight movie circuit. His films are often defined by their schlock and violence, and yet bear a deeper, perhaps more integral relationship to the precipitous films of Bresson, Ozu, and Dreyer.

This cinema of opposites has, however, created something of a constant. Throughout the work of Schrader exists the titular ‘raging bull’, a character archetype whose nature acts as a throughline for Schrader’s essential thematic preoccupation. He (always he) has many ancestors – somewhere between Pickpocket’s rueful loner and The Searcher’s irascible John Wayne – but under Schrader’s pen (and through his camera), he takes on a new and specific tenor.

To illustrate this point, four of Schrader’s characters will be examined against four recurring themes. These are Travis Bickle, the lonely cabbie of Taxi Driver (1975, dir. Martin Scorsese); Jake LaMotta, the real-life boxer depicted in Raging Bull (1980, dir. Martin Scorsese); infamous Japanese writer Yukio Mishima in the also-biographical Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985, dir. Paul Schrader); and Reverend Toller, the Bergman-inspired parish priest of First Reformed (2017, dir. Paul Schrader). These individuals, and the films to which they belong, might appear distinct at first blush. Two are fictitious, two are based on real people. They range in socio-economic position, in time period, even in language. Not necessarily obvious bedfellows; but each of them are built from the same thematic tissue.


1. Alienation

Perhaps the crucial binding fabric of these four characters is their inherent rejection from, or rejection of, society. Travis Bickle is something of an ur-text in alienation, a man without any real connection to his environment, a man who despite his efforts, cannot understand the world in which he lives. Even biologically – he is unable to sleep, unable to function properly. As a palliative measure he becomes a taxi driver, though in doing so he embodies the distance between him and his city.

He is physically separated from the world by his vehicle, a machine from which he can observe in safety, metal casque and glass visor. He drifts through the city, though is at once apart from it. His filter is only so effective – to maintain his peripatetic life he must occasionally permit entry from the outside. From the driver’s seat, he experiences a cross-section of society: politicians, cuckolds, lovers. And yet, as the camera often signifies, he only sees these people through his rearview mirror. Only a reflection of reality: Plato’s Cab.



Though never so extreme, this dichotomy between the internal and external is consistent. Jake LaMotta is similar in his general failing to interpret the world around him. He cannot see a loyal brother or a faithful wife; his spiteful projection of the world is his only stimulus. Like Bickle, he is defined by his corrosive pessimism, a fundamental belief that it is the exterior – and not the interior – constantly conspiring against him.

The alienation of Mishima and Toller is, as according to their characters, more intellectual. Mishima’s dichotomy divides art and action: he cannot bear this discrepancy. ‘The harmony of pen and sword,’ he wrote, believing truth only lies in the meeting of art and action. Praxis over theory. Toller is of the same mould albeit less abstract. For him, he finds the Church – his Church – discrete from the world it supposedly serves. The apolitical bent of modern holy men intolerable. For all of them, the perceived state of their environment is justification for their separation from it. And each of them, in their way, will make some attempt to bridge this unbridgeable distance.


2. Masculinity

Their manner of combating alienation is, in every case, a reflection of their own masculine precepts. Bickle, Mishima, and Toller were all at one point military men, and LaMotta’s sport – boxing – necessitates a similarly violent mindset. Bickle, LaMotta, and Mishima each build their bodies in accordance to their belief in the necessity of physical supremacy – in lieu, Toller augments his own with a suicide jacket: his body becomes a weapon. Each of them will ultimately approach their central grievance with their societies violently, hoping to find personal release with aggressive outbursts.

For Bickle, he plans first a political assassination, and upon his failure to execute this plan, he instead shoots the purveyors of a child brothel. This latter act might seem heroic, but Bickle holds it equivalent to the mindless slaughter of a presidential candidate against whom he holds no particular grudge or opinion. For Bickle, violent release is necessary. The exact target of this release, however, is mutable. If his militaristic aims initially implied some ideological intention, any such ideology falls away for a personal, indulgent gratification.



This idea of violent and explosive release is particularly clear in Mishima and Toller, too. Both also plan a grand coup of some kind, and like Bickle they intend to die on the completion of such a coup. And while both have potent ideological foundations, personal, physical need appears to overcome any realistic hope for social or political change. Jake LaMotta is the least pretentious in regard to masculine release, but his behaviour is effectively the same. Instead of one all-encompassing act of violence, LaMotta is defined by constant, smaller bouts.

Outside of the ring he is anxious, nervy. In the ring he can be truthful, direct; he can expel the alienation that, like all these characters, constantly grows within. Scorsese’s direction emphasises this idea: the boxing scenes are shot expressionistically, against an impossible black. LaMotta is isolated with his foe, often caught alone in reverse shot. The very first shot is taken long, a small LaMotta caught between the ropes. His freedom, his cage. LaMotta’s constant failure to find lasting peace is then indicative for the other characters – their enraged outbursts will not save them. Masculine aggression only leads to more pain, for the individual or those close to him.


3. Sexuality

Inherently interlinked to these violent ejaculations is that word’s more typical connotation. As is often accompanied by masculine conflagration, sexual insecurity and anxiety dominate the psyches of these characters to varying degrees. Bickle might be the most obvious candidate again: he drifts into pornographic moviehouses, attempts to chat up the cashiers thereof, then thinks it an appropriate destination for a first date.

This is a man who doesn’t understand courtship, and is totally removed from sex beyond his own voyeurism. He mentions the cum he has to clean off the backseat of his cab; his initial assassination plot is closely related to the woman who had spurned him; his replacement massacre takes place in a brothel. After concluding his spree he leans back on a couch, pleased and consummated. A finger-gun to the head: la petite mort. Not just an emotional release, but very specifically sexual: orgasmic.



Jake LaMotta’s own sexual inadequacies are alluded to constantly. His violence is primarily fuelled by the wrongfooted belief that his wife is unfaithful; any comment that even vaguely implies as much is enough to trigger a verbal (or physical) onslaught. An offhand comment about a good looking boxer from his wife is met with utter scorn: less a comment on Mrs LaMotta than it is the insecurity of Mr. His failure to perform in the bedroom (as is at one point suggested in dialogue) leaves him emasculated – to retrieve this masculinity, as above, extreme action is required. But much like any orgasm, the relief of combat can only sate him so long, until the guilt and anger return to the fore; the supposedly happy ending of Taxi Driver is tinted by this same knowledge.

The sexuality of Mishima is somewhat more clean-cut, with a repressed homosexuality building to a fever in a society that most assuredly denied that right of being. Indeed, Mishima was (and still is) banned in Japan partially on the grounds of its depiction of Mishima as gay. Toller’s case is a touch more complicated, him rejecting the priary female attention in his workplace, the bespectacled Esther. But despite his supposed claims that he is beyond love (and so, in his profession, sex), he finds himself nonetheless attracted to Mary, his vulnerable charge. Indeed, the final scene of the film (by my money a dream sequence) has the two embrace in a Vertigo kiss, with spinning psychedelic camera. His suicidal release has coincided with a fantasy of sexual consummation – by no means a coincidence.


4. Iconography

Central to all of these films are mirrors. As already mentioned, Bickle interprets his world through the mirror in his cab, but more than seeing others, it is best used to see the self. The mirror-scene in Mishima is most striking and indicative. Initially he uses the mirror to dress, ceremoniously donning his military uniform. It is essential that he fulfil his role visually as well as mentally, that his image is correct. Mishima’s military fantasy, the war he never got to fight, is here embodied in his appearance. He looks at himself, his self-perception most essential. But in full costume, several other images flash the screen in monochrome. Mishima in a mask, Mishima in kendo bōgu, Mishima as a fighter pilot. Images of memory and fiction, the internal identities that Mishima is projecting. All of them masked.



Each character has a costume similar to this. Bickle’s has ironically become something of an icon itself, but this is but a reflection of a reflection. His mohawk, military gear, aviator glasses – this is not his identity, but the assumption of an identity. One more derived from cinema than reality, an attempt to relive his own missed military opportunities (he was an honourable discharge). He looks at himself and speaks to the mirror: ‘You talking to me? Well I’m the only one here.’ Another abstraction of himself, alone. Toller’s relationship to iconography is again similar. He dons his bomb vest like Mishima does his military outfit, with dutiful direction. He wishes to encompass something of a cross between eco-terrorist and Thomas Merton – but again, there is an artificality to this presentation. More true is his final appearance in a mirror, in which he coils barbed wire around himself, squirming in agony. This is not noble sacrifice, but consummatory self-flagellation.



LaMotta first looks at the mirror in his tiger-print boxing robe, his own performative appearance for the ring. But his second mirror scene is entirely reversed – he sees an old, corpulent burnout. Like Bickle, he talks to the mirror. He refers to ‘Charlie’, but means himself. LaMotta alone – by his uniquely long life – is granted a modicum of self-awareness. He accuses the mirror, he accuses himself; he accepts that the icon he so wished to be, that of a ‘somebody’, a ‘competitor’, had eluded him. He, like them all, has succumbed to self-indulgence.

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Three Essential Lessons from Robert Bresson

Robert Bresson is one of the most acclaimed filmmakers of all time.

His cinema is poetic, seeking the profound in the minimal, affecting with the unaffected. While his influence is undoubted, with Paul Schrader particularly keen to reference Bresson’s work (including and especially in Taxi Driver), Bresson remains idiosyncratic. His style is unique and inimitable, a singular voice in cinema. Despite this, his writings on the form offer great insights for filmmakers of any walk.


1. ‘The truth of cinematography cannot be the truth of theatre, not the truth of the novel, nor the truth of painting.’

Foremost in Bresson’s filmic philosophy was the idea of film’s distinction from the other artforms. The seventh art, as it is often known in France. He distinguished ‘cinematography’, which for him was film that took advantage of its form, and ‘cinema’, which did not. For Bresson, ‘cinema films are historical documents whose place is in the archives.’ His main gripe with ‘cinema’ (which most films would be defined as) is how it cribs the fundamentals of theatre.

In defining these terms, he wrote: ‘two types of film: those that employ the resources of theatre and use the camera in order to reproduce; [and] those that employ the resources of cinematography and use the camera to create.’ For Bresson, film had no place for precepts of the stage. Loud performances, imitative narratives, and melodramatic grandeur were artefacts from another form. They work in theatre due to ‘flesh-and-blood’ presence. Bresson believed that translating this to film was like photographing a painting: a realistic copy, but undeniably lesser.

‘What no human eye is capable of catching, no pencil, brush, pen of pinning down, your camera catches without knowing what it is, and pins it down with a machine’s scrupulous indifference.’ This was Bresson’s approach, the way in which he envisioned ‘cinematography’ as distinct from all other forms. And while many might point to the boisterous films of Mike Leigh as theatrical, or the lush compositions of Kubrick as painterly, or the wordy ruminations of Rohmer as literary, Bresson’s point is sound. That which film can do – and that which other mediums cannot do – is necessarily the core of the artform. Do not find yourself lost in a medium that does not best communicate what you want to express. And always use the unique tools of filmmaking to your advantage.


2. ‘Nine-tenths of our movements obey habit and automatism. It is anti-nature to subordinate them to will and thought.’

Along with Bresson’s radical opinions on filmic form, his position on acting is also controversial. He saw the performances in so many films as theatrical – and as such artificial and improper for film. Bresson’s response is strangely contrary. Instead of courting realism in his actors, he encouraged them to reduce any and all thought in their performance instead. Indeed, he did not find it appropriate to even call them actors. Rather models, whose very presence, moulded by the director, should convey the feeling of the film.

While Bresson’s approach is controversial, its basis is worth considering. Acting, especially the kind often awarded with Hollywood finery, seems to prioritise more over less. A great performance is considered one that it is imitative and engaging, not necessarily one that reflects any ‘truth’ of human life. In reducing a performance, or by making it something other than a performance, a subtlety of emotion can be achieved. The closeness of the camera reduces the need for loud theatrics. As Bresson awkwardly put it, think of the ‘ejaculatory force of the eye.’


3. ‘Film where expression is obtained by relations of images and sounds, and not by mimicry done with gestures and intonations of voice.’

Lastly comes the fundamental distinction between film and photography – editing. Bresson, a student of associative montage, saw meaning between the images rather than in them. ‘If an image, looked at by itself, expresses something sharply, if it involves an interpretation, it will not be transformed on contact with other images… it is definitive and unusable in the cinematographer’s system.’ By this he means that an image that has meaning in itself is uncinematic. The point of film, as he sees it, is for meaning to be suggested by association and by contradiction. The essence of editing is way in which images, who themselves have limited meaning, interact and create something new.

To use his words again: ‘an image must be transformed by contact with other images as is a colour by contact with other colours. A blue is not the same blue beside a green, a yellow, a red. No art without transformation.’ The severity of his position might seem overly extreme –  Tarkovsky was, for example, never much a fan of rebuking the uncut image. But to consider editing in this way is useful. To edit something together is not to simply put things in the right order, nor just to get to the next meaningful shot. It is the direct interaction of the shots, and what that might convey.



You don’t have to agree with Bresson. It seems strange to end such a praiseworthy article on that note, but it is important to say so. His cinema is specifically his own. His techniques – even his vocabulary – are rarely seen elsewhere. Many great filmmakers have contradicted his rules, and his own films are far from universally loved.

But even if his approach is unbecoming to you, the way in which he considers film is essential. To not fall into the pit of conventionality, to consider the fundamentals of cinema as though new. These are the core lessons of Bresson. To give him the final word: ‘my movie is born first in my head, dies on paper; is resuscitated by the living persons and real objects I use, which are killed on film but, placed in a certain order and projected on to a screen, come to life again like flowers in waters.’

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Three Secrets of the Sequence Shot

Fundamentally, to define what a shot can or can’t do is limiting and limited.

Certain kinds of shot are, ultimately, simple designations made for innovations of form. We’d never have a Dutch angle if everyone had followed the remit of keeping the camera straight. But nonetheless, knowing the capability of a certain kind of shot is necessary to make best use of the cinematic grammar at your disposal. And more, in knowing what a shot can do, pushing it to what it supposedly cannot is the fastest route to subversive innovation – two of my very favourite things.

Click through to watch the example video.

The sequence shot, otherwise known as the oner or the long take, is often considered like something of a cinematic boast. To keep the camera running so long without error or failure requires an immense amount of technical skill and ability. The longer and more intricate the shot, the more impressive a filmmaker behind the shot. That’s the general idea, at least. But while long takes have been commodified to such effect, they communicate (or can communicate) more than technical bravura. To illustrate this point, I will split the usage of sequence shots into three arbitrary subsections. Technical prowess will be, in this instance, excepted.



1. To constrict time and create tension

Sequence shots are most effective in their most basic requirement: that they maintain the cinematic space both temporally and physically. Time is stuck to a second-per-second (unless certain effects are applied), and the audience is trapped wherever the camera happens to be. This results in a tactile sense of embodiment: that of the observer, someone who is viewing events as they unfold, as opposed to seeing a version of events edited together. There is an inherent, inescapable intimacy to this mode; time and space become secure in an artform that so often twists them to its own design.

Film that take advantage of this fact are plentiful. Son of Saul exploits long takes, all shot within close proximity of its titular protagonist, to develop a pervasive sense of unease. That the narrative will remain with Saul throughout is wracking enough – that the camera will continue rolling no matter what horrors occupy the edges of its frame multiplies this dread emphatically.

A pivotal scene follows Saul through a chaos enrapturing the concentration camp in which he is interned. He is searching for a Rabbi. The camera stays close to the back of Saul’s head, while the sounds of screaming; men barking in German; gunshots fill the soundtrack. The camera continues to follow Saul, and we too are subjected to a continuous sensory attack. A simmering scene, but not one that is visually explicit: it is through sound, proximity, and the extended take that its tension is born.


“It is through sound, proximity, and the extended take that [the scene’s] tension is born”


More extreme than the long takes of Son of Saul are those of that much-lauded sub-genre: single-take features. These are rare, and exist in two distinct sub-genres of their own. First of these are the ‘fake’ single-takers, which are in fact a series of takes masked so as to appear as one. Hitchcock’s Rope is commonly cited as the first of these (though it does contain some unmasked cuts). More recent is Birdman, which exploits digital cinematography to create a truly seamless, but absolutely unreal, single-shot feature.

More relevant to this section are the ‘genuine’ single-take features, such as Victoria. This film, shot in the mutable period between late night and early morning, follows a woman on an escalating and unsettling night out in Berlin. Knowing that the camera will never cut becomes this film’s primary formal device. A shot in which Victoria finds herself in a lift with several strangers might be unnerving usually, but knowing that there will be no visual escape from whatever does or doesn’t happen – no merciful cutaway – renders the scene that much more effective.

It is worth noting, however, that the single-take feature has substantial misgivings as a genre. Mistakes that might otherwise demand a reshoot are in genuine single-take films ignored, and the result can be a culmination of small errors that substantially weaken the film as a whole. Who wants to retake the whole thing after a dropped line 80 minutes in?




2. To create flowing visual rhythm, as opposed to editing

Beyond maintaining temporal and physical continuity, sequence shots also stand (or can stand) opposed to one of cinema’s defining attributes: the edit. For as long as cinema theory has existed, the exact nature of editing has been challenged and shaped. Most influential are the proponents of Soviet Montage. Chief among them is Eisenstein, a Russian master who codified many of his theories in writing across his career. To him, editing was all-important.

The singular content of any particular shot is subsumed by its relative importance with regard to what shot is placed before and after it. A shot of a capitalist fatcat intimates various conclusions, but is itself a simple image. A shot of a noose might also suggest certain themes or ideas, but again, is simple. The same can be said of a shot of Soviet peasants smiling and happy. However, cut these shots in sequence and simple ideas unify into a new, separate, and complex implication. It is through intellectual and conceptual juxtaposition that meaning in cinema is provided.


“[He found] cinematic beauty within the internal rhythm of shots more than their position in a larger scheme”


But not every director was fond of this particular way of doing things, in rejecting meaning within sole or continuous images. One such man was Tarkovsky, who opposed Eisenstein’s ‘montage of attractions’ with his own theory of ‘time pressure’. Indeed, he described his cinema as ‘sculpting in time’, finding cinematic beauty within the internal rhythm of shots more than their position in a larger scheme. This difference is partially accounted for by different approaches – Eisenstein was a self-professed ideological filmmaker, whereas Tarkovsky was a visual poet. The first preferred to deliver an idea or position with gusto – the ‘cine-fist’, the other would rather his audience interpret his art individually.

Tarkovsky did not sculpt his time in the name of tension, as above, but so as to create a series of conjoined, rhythmic images that flow like a sentence or melody. In his masterpiece, Mirror, Tarkovsky’s camera glides and peers around a remembered house, children darting about, a commotion of sorts. The scene climaxes with the image of a burning house, framed above by water dripping from a wooden rim. The fire climbs, the water falls. Tarkovsky does not find juxtaposition against his images, but within them. Unlike the simple imagery of Eisenstein, he uses sequence shots to craft images that, themselves, carry great interpretive meaning.




3. None of the above

So far, this article has very much focused on the ways in which long takes maintain the cinematic space. They keep time and space ascertain, they create a closeness and an intimacy. Their rhythm is essential as it must match our own rhythm. Tarkovsky sculpts time, but he sculpts it according to our perception of such. If there is no cut, then time must trundle on a second-per-second, ensnaring the viewer to whatever temporal position they might find themselves in. Unless…

Theo Angelopoulos was a Greek filmmaker of arthouse acclaim and idiosyncratic individuality. His films are almost always shot exclusively with wide lenses, and his approach does not value the individual psychologies of his characters. Instead, he deals with mythologies and histories, considering the Greek people as a group rather than a series of individuals. His actors fulfil archetypes on occasion, but just as often blend into an anonymous blur. More important than what he does with his actors, however, is what he does with his camera. Angelopoulos was a great proponent of the sequence shot, often matched with extensive camera movements. Less the gliding eye of Tarkovsky, more the all-encompassing pan.


“The shot is seamless, impossible”


In his gargantuan The Travelling Players, one such shot calls attention to itself. It begins in 1946, tracking a coterie of drunken monarchists singing patriotic songs and celebrating the new year. The camera tracks these men as they walk down the road for a few minutes, until a loudspeaker announces election of the fascist Marshal Papagos. This election took place in 1952. The men rush to congratulate their new leader in a suddenly apparent rally. There was no visual effect here, no title card, no indication of time travel or changing state. The shot is seamless, impossible.

The sanctity of time so treasured by Tarkovsky is here thrown aside, in effect married to the juxtaposed shots of Eisenstein. Only instead of cutting from 1946 to 1952, thus implying their implicit thematic/political connexion, Angelopoulos pans there. The change is so low key as to be almost imperceptible, but therein is the magic of his cinema. Angelopoulos breaks every rule of the cinematic space and in doing so delivers his point with a forceful elegance. A strange combination of terms, yet suiting.

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[BOOK REVIEW] The Director’s Six Senses

“‘Director’ is not a description of what you do; it is something you become. You are a director 24/7. You should always have your ‘director senses’ alert.”

The idea that you have to use all of your senses to be a great director is one that the author of The Director’s Six Senses, Simone Bartesaghi, firmly believes in. Sight, sound and overall vision may seem obvious in their connection to directing, but the fact that smell, taste, and touch were also deemed equally as important was surprising to me. Of course, you can’t touch, smell or taste a movie. But these senses can be interpreted and must be considered when it comes to the filmmaking process.

Smell is such an elusive sense and it is interestingly applied by Bartesaghi as a metaphor for performance. He insists that it’s easy to “smell a lie” when it comes to a performance, but then again, every performance is a lie. It’s all a matter of playing pretend but doing it SO well that it seems true.

Films feel real because of the alternate realities they convey. They transport the audience member into that world and make them believe that, even if only for 90 minutes, it is all real. That’s why smell and the “stench” of a bad performance can be detrimental to the believability of a film.

“If what happens on the screen doesn’t feel right, if the behavior of the characters seems forced, then we snap out of the movie and the whole immersive experience is gone.”

Touch is the biggest sense to focus on when it comes to production design. Every human touches the lives of others and the world around them in some way, and their environment is a direct result of these interactions. As Bartesaghi says, “you’ll notice very quickly that their world is often a reflection of their identity.”

It is important to realise this when it comes to crafting the environment that will be shown on screen. A chaotic, creative character can live in a very cluttered and personalized home, but if their boss is a neurotic neat-freak, their work desk can be devoid of personality. This is because every scene should be a reflection of how the environment or other characters force the character to behave or interact.

“Touch is the perception of the environment. It’s important to remember that we are trying to portray on the screen the truth about our reality and it’s important that we pay attention to how, in real life, we react, perceive, and use things.”

Taste is another sense that doesn’t immediately come to mind when you think of directing, but it’s one that should be developed over time. This time Bartesaghi chooses to refer to taste as the feeling that is left and stays with you even after the film is over.  As director, you are in control of the story and can dictate how your audience feels as a result. It sounds quite manipulative, but it’s true.

If you want the ending to be so heart-wrenchingly sad that the audience can’t help but feel a piece of them die with the rolling of the credits, that’s your call. But to quote a famous uncle, “with great power comes great responsibility.” You don’t want to drive your audience away; you want to carefully steer them towards the ending reaction you desire.

The Director’s Six Senses doesn’t quite reach its full potential as far as sense related metaphors go. But, Bartesaghi redeems himself with the idea that a director’s senses must be alert and useful when it comes to noticing things others may not. That’s why this book, while at times a bit too on-the-nose, is a good resource for the aspiring filmmaker that’s interested in how to be a good director and not necessarily good at directing.


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