Mise en scène
Film Tools and Techniques Introduction
In this and other publications, the term mise en scène signifies the major aspects filmmaking shares with staging a play. It refers to the selection of setting, subjects, and composition of each shot. Normally in complex film productions, the director makes final decisions about mise en scène.
■ A setting is the place where filmed action occurs. It is either a set, which has been built for use in the film, or a location, which is any place other than a film studio that is used for filming.
■ Depending on the needs of the scene, settings may be limbo (indistinct), realistic, or nonrealistic.
■ A setting can be the main subject of a shot or scene but usually is not. Settings often reveal the time and place of a scene, create or intensify moods, and help reveal what people (in a documentary film) or characters (in a fictional film) are like. Throughout a film, changes in settings can also mirror changes in situations and moods.
■ In films, fictional characters or real people are the usual subjects, and their actions and appearances help reveal their nature.
■ Performers may be stars, Method actors, character actors, or nonprofessional actors. There is some overlap among these categories: a star, for example, may also be a Method actor. Depending on the desired results, actors may be cast by type or against type.
■ Usually film actors must perform their scenes out of order, in brief segments, and often after long waits.
■ Effective performances may depend on the script, casting, direction, editing, and music. There is no one type of effective performance: what is judged effective depends in part on the viewers' culture and the film's style or its manner of representing its subject.
Composition: The Uses of Space
■ Filmmakers, especially cinematographers and directors, decide the shape of the overall image. They also decide how to use the space within an image. They decide when and how to use empty space and what will be conveyed by the arrangement of significant subjects on the sides of the frame, in the foreground, or in the background. Filmmakers also decide if compositions are to be symmetrical or asymmetrical.
■ Composition influences what viewers see positioned in relationship to the subject and how the subject is situated within the frame; what information is revealed to viewers that the characters do not know; and what viewers learn about the characters' personalities or situations.
■ Many films are seen in an aspect ratio (or shape of the image) other than the one the filmmakers intended, and the compositions, meanings, and moods conveyed are thus altered.
Mise en Scène and the World outside the Frame
■ Mise en scène can be used to promote a political viewpoint or commercial product (the latter practice is called product placement).
■ Mise en scène can be used to parody human behavior or a text (such as a film). It can also be used to pay homage or tribute to an earlier text or part of one.
From Phillips, William H (2013 4th ed.) "Film and Introduction" Unversity of Wisconsin-Wau Claire, Bedford St. Martins. Boston / New York
Who Am I?
What is film?
Story telling cavemen
Flip cards Kinescope
Projected celluloid (flammable plastic)
Advancements in film
Quick Review of History ever actor and filmmaker should be know...
1830 Germs that made film possible were planted
German studies of the human mind and how we see motion
"Persistence of Vision"
1839 First Commercial Photography
1869 Invention of Celluloid Clear Plastic
1870 Incandescent lamps or electronic light
January 7, 1894 Edison, who did no invent film, introduced commercial Kinescope
Used employees in his films not actors
December 28, 1895 Lumere Brothers first projected images
Start of Cinematography
A train leaving a station, then hurtling toward audience,
And a French short Farce Comedy (first fictional film)
Mid 1896 Edison introduced Videoscope, his projection system
Same time competitor introduced the Biograph in Chicago and NYC
1897 Cinerama, multiple screen projection system using ten synchronized projectors
By 1900 Kinescope parlors were all around the world, in stores, record shops, at amusement parks and carnivals and even in churches
1911 the first multi-reel longer films begins, as spectaculars...
Lez Mislabels, Shakespeare, Biblical and Historic
1915 Birth of a Nation
Major achievement and advancement
Racist and slanted by todays lens...
Cecil B DeMille began in the 1910 with sex comedies and moved on to
Max Senate introduced the Keystone Cops slapstick style in 1912
WWII ended French and German dominance in film and allowed the US to move to a position it still holds, dominating International Film production and distribution...
Movies made possible "the American Century".
(Why China is investing so much now)
After the war...how you gonna hold em down on the farm...
Films became increasingly racy and tacked increasingly controversial subjects using a European no holds barred approach
Hollywood became a legend not a subdivision in California. Scandals, crime, avoiding the law and governmental regulation,
First Academy Awards 1927, but first best picture was 1929
for a film made in 1926 film...WINGS
(Gary Cooper small role)
Lee DeForest and Edison rivals in experimenting with sound
Silent films had sound...records played at specific places
Live music and live sound effects
Sometimes live actors with scripts reading
1926 Sound shorts, including African American artists
1927 Al Jolson...The Jazz Singer
1929 The Marx Brothers, first stars to take full advantage of sound
Gangsters, Westerns, Escapism, Comedy, Sound,
Unions, the Studio System entrenched,
Nazi and other Propaganda
Hollywood propaganda 1930 to 1950's.
Motion Picture Code
The Motion Picture Production Code was the set of industry moral censorship guidelines that governed the production of most United States motion pictures released by major studios from 1930 to 1968. It is also popularly known as the Hays Code, after Hollywood's chief censor of the time, Will H. Hays. The Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), which later became the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), adopted the code in 1930, began enforcing it in 1934, and abandoned it in 1968, in favor of the subsequent MPAA film rating system.
The Production Code spelled out what was acceptable and what was unacceptable content for motion pictures produced for a public audience in the United States. The office enforcing it was popularly called the Hays Office/
which was far more rigid in censoring films than Hays had been.
Hollywood followed the guidelines set about by the code well into the late 1950s, but the code was eventually abandoned due to the combined impact of television, influence from foreign films, bold directors (such as Otto Preminger) pushing the envelope, and intervention from the courts, including the Supreme Court. By the 1960s the code had been entirely abandoned.
1938-1939 considered the greatest year of the studio system in artistic achievement,
attendance box office and quantity of films released...
Wizard of Oz
Gone With the Wind
Goodbye Mr. Chips
Young Mr. Lincoln
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Bringing UP Baby
And many others...
1941 to 1945 The War Years
James Cagney president of the Screen Actors Guild
full speed propaganda machine
but with Hollywood quality and stars
Here Comes Mr., Jordan
How Green Was My Valley
The Lady Eve
Sargent York (Gary Cooper)
They Died with their Boots On
The Wolf Man
Blood and Sand
Pride and prejudice
Toad to Singapore
Santa Fe Trail
The Grapes of Wrath
The Great dictator
His Girl Friday
Knute Rockne All American
The Shop Around the Corner
And many others
Post War Escapism
Mixed with after war dramas
And WWII glory films
1947 ...released 1950...
Ronald Reagan President of Screen Actors Guild
First film to break the studio system
Returning war vet Jimmy Stewart
Produced, starred and independently distributed
Supreme Court rules Big 5 are monopoly
In film production and distribution
(today there are four and all integrated more than they were in the 1930's to 50's)
1949 Twelve O'clock High
1949 North by Northwest
Eisenhower Years positive family movies
McCarthyism continues (1947 the Hollywood ten)
McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. It also means "the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism." The term has its origins in the period in the United States known as the Second Red Scare, lasting roughly from 1950 to 1956 and characterized by heightened political repression against communists, as well as a campaign spreading fear of their influence on American institutions and of espionage by Soviet agents. Originally coined to criticize the anti-communist pursuits of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, "McCarthyism" soon took on a broader meaning, describing the excesses of similar efforts. The term is also now used more generally to describe reckless, unsubstantiated accusations, as well as demagogic attacks on the character or patriotism of political adversaries.
During the McCarthy era, thousands of Americans were accused of being communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government or private-industry panels, committees and agencies. The primary targets of such suspicions were government employees, those in the entertainment industry, educators and union activists. Suspicions were often given credence despite inconclusive or questionable evidence, and the level of threat posed by a person's real or supposed leftist associations or beliefs were often greatly exaggerated. Many people suffered loss of employment and/or destruction of their careers; some even suffered imprisonment. Most of these punishments came about through trial verdicts later overturned, laws that were later declared unconstitutional, dismissals for reasons later declared illegal or actionable, or extra-legal procedures that would come into general disrepute.
The most famous examples of McCarthyism include the speeches, investigations, and hearings of Senator McCarthy himself; the Hollywood blacklist, associated with hearings conducted by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC); and the various anti-communist activities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) under Director J. Edgar Hoover. McCarthyism was a widespread social and cultural phenomenon that affected all levels of society and was the source of a great deal of debate and conflict in the United States.
Some conservatives regard the term as inappropriate and deprecate what they say are myths created about McCarthy.
Started conservative and grew very radical and change with audience / market
Musicals and Family films ending with counter culture, crime and rough edges
Experimentation in mid to late 1960's
Started with an economic depression for American film industry
But new generation came along
Coppola. DePalma, Scorsese, Spielberg Lucas, Fiedkin, Robert Altman, Mel Brooks and others
Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Jaws, Star Wars, French Connection, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, MASH (1970), Taxi Drier, Blazing Saddles, Poseidon Adventure, Saturday night Fever and movie version of Grease...
Born of late 60's counter culture, anti-war and cynicism
Created start realism and sharp lines images...
Method acting and increasing visual violence and brutality,
Along side political comedy and even musicals.
1980's the decade of the Block Busters and large puffy hair
Raiders of the Lost Arch, ET, Driving Miss Daisy, batman, die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Rambo...Buffy the Vampire Slayer...
1970s' counter culture and even anti-hero's grew and continued...
Cost of films skyrocketed as audiences demanded more
The Indy film market grew, as studios did not green light "risky films"
So companies like Miramax, Robert Redford's Sundance Institute, Tribeca formed and prospered.
Tremendous foreign film growth and creativity.
Hollywood begins to lose its front seat dominance to foreign production centers and films...Nationalism, craftspeople, decline of the Soviet Block..
And VIDEO BOOM
Big blockbusters with small Indy dollar makers
"Shakespeare In Love", "Silence of the Lambs", Saving Private Ryan, American Beauty, Schindlers List, Unforgiven..
First new movie studio in several decades Dreamworks SKG
Large Corporate buyouts, mergers, and integration
Product became about merchandising over content
Big Box Theaters
Big Budget busts
Animation that was not Disney (later purchased by Disney)
Growth of overseas production
Shift from US being center of profits to overseas
Film Basic 2 notes:
FILM BASICS part 2
Cinematography involves the choice and manipulation of film stock or video, lighting, and cameras. Some of the main issues in cinematography are film grain, color, lenses, camera distance and angle from the subject, and camera movement. As with other aspects of filmmaking, the choices made in filming affect how viewers respond to the film.
■ Film stock, which is unexposed and unprocessed motion-picture film, influences the film's finished look, including its sharpness of detail, range of light and shadow, and quality of color. Often professional cinematographers use different film stocks or videotape in different parts of the same film to support certain effects.
■ Generally, the wider the film gauge is, the larger are the film frames and the sharper the projected images.
■ Slow film stock, which requires more light during filming than fast film stock, can produce a detailed, nuanced image. In older films, fast film stock usually produces more graininess than slow film stock.
■ Color associations vary from culture to culture, and a color's impact depends on context--where and how the color is used.
■ In most Western societies, warm colors (reds, oranges, and yellows) tend to be thought of as hot, dangerous, lively, and assertive. Greens, blues, and violets are generally characterized as cool colors. In Europe and the Americas, cool colors tend to be associated with safety, reason, control, relaxation, and sometimes sadness or melancholy.
■ Color may be saturated (intense, vivid) or desaturated (muted, dull, pale), and saturated and desaturated colors can be used to create or intensify countless possible effects.
■ Hard lighting comes directly from a light source, such as the sun or a clear incandescent electric bulb. Soft light comes from an indirect source. Hard lighting is bright and harsh and creates unflattering images. Soft lighting is flattering because it tends to fill in imperfections in the subject's surface and obliterate or lessen sharp lines and shadows.
■ Low-key lighting involves little illumination on the subject and often reinforces a dramatic or mysterious effect. High-key lighting entails bright illumination of the subject and may create or enhance a cheerful mood.
■ The direction of light reaching the subject--for example, from below or from only one side--can change an image's moods and meanings.
■ Like light, shadows can be used expressively in countless ways--for example, to create a mysterious or threatening environment.
■ During filming, one of three types of lenses is used: wide-angle, normal, or telephoto. Often all three are used at different times within the same film. Each type of lens has different properties and creates different images.
■ Choice of lens, aperture (or opening), and film stock largely determine the depth of field, or distance in front of the camera in which all objects are in focus.
■ Diffusers may be placed in front of a light source or in front of a camera lens to soften lines in the subject, to glamorize, or to lend a more spiritual or ethereal look.
■ Camera distance helps determine how large the subject will appear within the frame, what details will be noticeable, and what will be excluded from the frame.
■ By changing the camera lens and the camera distance between shots or during a shot, filmmakers can change perspective: the relative size and apparent depth of subjects and setting in the photographic image.
■ The angle from which the subject is filmed influences the expressiveness of the images. There are four basic camera angles--bird's-eye view, high angle, eye-level angle, and low angle--and countless other angles in between.
■ In point-of-view (p.o.v.) shots, the camera films a subject from the approximate position of someone, or occasionally something, in the film. Such camera placements may contribute to the viewer's identification with one of the subjects and sense of participation in the action.
■ A motion-picture camera may remain in one place during filming. While filming with a camera fixed in one place, the camera may be pivoted up or down (tilting) or rotated sideways (panning).
■ Panning too quickly causes blurred footage. Such a result is called a swish pan.
■ Ways to move the camera around during filming include dollying, tracking, using a crane, and employing a Steadicam. Like other aspects of cinematography, camera movement can be used in countless expressive ways.
■ Film and video images can be scanned or transferred into a computer, changed there, and transferred back to film. Computers can be used to modify colors and contrast (digital intermediate), correct errors, and change the images in ways impossible or more troublesome and costly to do with film alone.
■ Mainly for reasons of economy and convenience, more and more movies are being filmed in high-definition video and transferred to film for theatrical showings, though the results do not yet match the detail and nuance of the best film stocks.
A partial glossary of film terms and practices.
My personal web links with indstry news and links (for information only).
*Note all material links are optional and meant to assist in your journey through acting and the industry.