Many people go into the business of making videos and films, believing that pointing the camera in one direction and pressing record is the way filmmaking works. Unfortunately, this idea is hugely misleading since filmmaking is not only about pointing your camera in one direction and recording whatever happens in front of it. Of course, there are some documentary filmmakers, who simply point cameras in one direction and record the events happening in front of them. However, for the purpose of this blog, we are talking about narrative filmmaking that requires much more planning and pre-production.
First of all, you need to have a reason why you want to point the camera in that particular direction and why not the opposite. What is in that frame that will give your audience information and understanding of the story, character motivation, and actions? Before you start setting up your framing, you should always consider if that particular frame is going to move the story forward, add something new to the story and is not random or accidental.
Whatever makes into the frame will most likely stay in the frame and make it to the final cut, so you need to be very deliberate about your mise-en-scene. Your film’s production design should tell the audience a lot about that particular scene and about the characters in your story without being confusing for the viewers. Pay attention to your framing, think in advance what elements will allow you to make your story stronger visually.
The positioning of actors is another vital element of your framing. You can figure out yourself, as a director, where and how you would like to position your actors, or you can work that out with your actors during the rehearsal process.
To know where to position your actors, you need to ask yourself questions some questions such as:
Is one character dominating another (how would you show that?)?
Is one character inferior to another?
What will the positioning of your characters tell the audience about the conflict in that scene?
How will you depict the inner conflict?
A number of elements go into making framing work. Nothing in your frame should be random or accidental, and every aspect should add up to telling the most compelling story you can. I’m not saying you shouldn’t leave some room for spontaneity because you should, but spontaneity and randomness shouldn’t be your default style.
And what goes into your frame is even more important with shorts than with feature films. So, be very cautious about what makes into the frame and what doesn’t. Shorts films are always time-limited, so use whatever time you have wisely to be able to convey your story.
If your frame is confusing and full of random contradictions, your audience will also be confused and lost in the story. It is worth spending time studying other filmmakers work and other films to see how each frame tells a story and moves the story forward. Take your time planning your shot; don’t rush the process; it is always worth being over-prepared than underprepared.