In our last post we dove into the creation of the most important planning document for a film: the shot list. Now we are going to see that shot list come to life and explore the creative decisions that we made for our debut film: Better Than You Doin You (don’t be mad)! Below I’ll discuss the different shot types and camera movements that we used and how they help to tell the story. Here we go! We begin with an establishing shot: a shot which establishes the scene rather than focusing on individual characters. This is the opening shot of the film so you can see the world the main character is about to enter into.
A full shot (head to toe) of the main character as she walks into the office setting that was established previously.
We use closeups and head and shoulders shots (like the three pictured below) to introduce the office worker characters, show their reactions to the main character, and for the main dancer to ‘interact’ with the audience. Closeups are the best way to showcase the characters and their emotions.
After the closeup introductions to the office workers we cut to a cowboy shot (cut just below the hip line) of the lead dancer. This change from closeups of the extras to a body shot of the lead dancer shows her distinction apart from them and that she’s taking control of the space around her.
Here are two examples in the film of us shooting most of the body and then cutting directly to a shot that is closer up of the dancer performing the same movement. This way we see the dancer set up the full movement with the body and can appreciate the dance’s athleticism. However, we then cut to a closeup so that the finer details like facial expressions and hand gestures can have their full effect.
Here is an example of us racking focus: a trick that directs the audience’s attention specifically from one subject to another while adding subtle drama. As you can see in the first picture to the left Rafael (the office worker), is in focus while Rachel (the dancer) is not. After a few seconds we ‘rack the focus’ so that Rafael is no longer in focus and Rachel is.
Some shots take the face out completely and focus on parts of the body (something especially useful for dance films). One of the more common uses in dance films is to show footwork as seen below.
This is an over the shoulder shot: filming over one character’s shoulder to look onto another subject or setting. It gives the feeling that you, the viewer, are taking on the perspective of the character who’s shoulder you are peering over.
This is the ending shot of the film: a long shot of the lead dancer with everyone else in the backdrop. We started the film showing the lead separate from the workers using the office desks as backdrops. In this final scene she dances with them but the backup dancers and office workers take on the role of providing the backdrop around her. Her backdrop is people rather than props for this final shot.
That’s it for this deep dive-in! I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more of what goes into the artistic process for one of these films! Let me know if you want more posts like this or any other content you would specifically like to learn about. I want to hear from you!
Thanks for reading and for your support!
For this post I thought if would be nice to dive a bit deeper into some of the behind the scenes of making one of our films. Today we are going to talk about my favorite part of the pre-production process: creating a shot list! We will be using our film Better Than You Doin You (don’t be mad) for our examples. A shot list is a detailed checklist that serves as the roadmap for the film’s shoot. The document describes the technical specifications for each shot so all of the crew are on the same page for the demands of each shot, what they are supposed to look like, and how they relate to the overall arc of the film. This is the most important planning document for the pre-production process of a film. It is the the product of the director and cinematographer deciding how they will visually tell the story. Below is a look at the first few shots from our shotlist for Better Than You Doin You (don’t be mad). You can click on the image to enlarge it.
The information you will find commonly among all shotlists is:
- the shot number
- the shot size: how close in are you viewing the subject?
- the shot type: is the camera eye level? Angled upward? How many people are in the shot?
- the movement of the camera: examples of movements are dollying, tracking, tilting, panning
- which actors or dancers are in the shot
- a basic shot description: which line in the script or piece of choreography is happening in the shot
Other information that can be included depending on the unique needs of the project is:
- the camera that will be used
- whether the shot is taken indoors or outdoors
- sets, props, and backdrops
- costume, hair, and makeup changes
- whether or not sound will be recorded
- editing notes
On the shoot for a dance film, the word ACTION is not very helpful when calling the start of a shot. The dancers are dancing to specific parts of the music–that music is the real action cue. So for my shot lists, I instead write where in the music the shot begins and ends, and the music counts that the director or assistant director should call before the dancers start.
As you can see below, the shot list is numbered in order of how they appear in the film but are shot in an order that makes sense for an efficient shooting schedule. So shot 1 (the opening shot) is actually the 14th one we shot that day.
So there you have a little introduction into this incredibly important stage for shooting one of our dance films. Make sure to check our next post for a look at how our shot list decisions came to life on screen for our debut film, “Better Than You Doin You (don’t be mad)!
Thanks so much for reading and for your support!