Human beings are storytellers at heart. We live through everyday encounters and also conjure elaborate fantasies, and there’s nothing we’d like more than to get these stories out there to others.
In earlier days, one had to be affiliated with a publication or have access to a printing press to get their written work published. But in this digital age, we can simply post on social media and share our views with the world.
In the same way, what was once possible only on professional film cameras is now achievable on a DSLR with a few props and good lighting. Digital content it easy to edit, color correct, and you can even apply the desired effects during post-production.
But the principles and structure of storytelling theoretically remains the same; it’s just the technology that has changed.
Let’s, for the purpose of the write up, use the simplest story as an example. A boy goes to school and loses his way. The family doesn’t find him back at the usual time and gets worked up about it. The boy eventually finds his way back home to a happy ending.
Now let’s break this down in terms of your movie.
You should ideally start a film with what’s called an establishing shot or series of shots. Say that you take a wide-angle shot of the home he stays in or even the whole neighbourhood, followed by a shot of his door. Alternatively, you could start with the school, and take a wide shot of the grounds and classroom to establish where the main character belongs.
You can follow this up with a series of cut-on-action shots to depict the boy’s journey, from the time he leaves the school to the moment he ends up lost somewhere. This involves shooting the same sequence from two different angles, and switching from one to the other while the character is in motion. Besides this, you can also use a moment of rest to cut to another shot that shows the beginning of a movement
Your camera angles should also be positioned at least 30 degrees away from the previous angle. This prevents what is known as a ‘jump cut’ from happening; these are jerky and distract the audience.
Once the boy realizes that he is lost, you can move in closer to gain the audience’s sympathy towards the plight of the child. You can also use handheld, slightly-shaky shots to depict his panic.
The boy eventually stumbles into a familiar bus stand and finds his way home. Upon stepping into his house, his worried mother first scolds and slaps him and then embraces him in a tight hug. Here, you can use what’s called an over the shoulder (OTS) shot to depict the boy’s submission. You can shoot his sad expression over the shoulder of the mom. This can be followed up by shooting the mother and child separately while they talk, to show that they are either of different opinions or on different emotional planes.
Finally, you can end with what’s called a two shot for the final embrace between the mother and son by having them both in the same frame. This connotes that the two characters are on the same emotional plane.
These simple principles can be applied across a range of short stories you wish to tell through the art of cinema. If you want more free lessons, head over to nofilmschool.com. Now go on and make your mark in the world of indie films!