Pull Back for Revelation

In the last two posts I talked about the Zoom shot and how powerful it can be for revealing important details. Now we’re going to see just how powerful the Pull Back is. Obviously, a Pull Back is just what’s implied. The camera pulls back to reveal a bigger picture. This is perhaps my favorite camera shot to use because of the power of revelation. And not just in a literal sense. As you saw in the last post, the character Jack in When Sparrows Fall has a mental pull back as he realizes a “bigger picture” that’s key in the story. No doubt moments like these are the most memorable and emotionally charged in any novel, and that’s why I encourage writers to learn about this camera shot and find places to use it in order to supercharge their stories.

Take a look at this trademark scene in Jurassic Park (one of my favorites!) that you surely recall if you saw the movie. Notice how the camera shots progress from close to closer until at Extreme Close-Up, but then, the screenwriter uses a Pull Back to show full damage for greatest impact.

EXT NEDRY’S JEEP, BACK ROADS –

Nedry speeds along the rain-slick road, fish-tailing as he goes.

CLOSE ON – Nedry at the wheel.

NEDRY’S POV – the dark, wet road running alongside a ten-foot chain-link fence. Suddenly, a beast-like visage blurs across the road.

Nedry swerves. The jeep skids. Nedry tries to over-steer, can’t bring the careening jeep under control.

The jeep crashes though the fence, bounces down a cement culvert, and dives into a raging gully.

Nedry curses. He spins the wheel. The tires spin and spray. The jeep’s hopelessly stuck in the gully. From Nedry’s seat in the jeep, he cranes his head around, examining his situation.

NEDRY’S POV – On the opposite side of the gully, there is an equipment graveyard. By the titled jeep headlights, steely monsters all around can be seen – discarded earth movers, graders, and tractors.

Nedry gets out of the jeep, grabs the winch from the jeep’s back end and wades over to an abandoned tractor.

 NEDRY

Shit. I’m going to have to change clothes.

He loops the winch around the tractor’s base. Suddenly, he stops and looks around as he hears a gentle HOOTING. He squints, looking at the strange steel graveyard lit by the bright beams of the jeep headlights.

HOOT! HOOT! A distinctive HOOTING. Nedry looks up in fear. SILENCE.

Nedry starts moving toward his jeep. Again, the HOOT! Nedry stops,looks right, looks left. A RUSTLE in the trees. Nedry’s head cocks.

Looking through trees, lit by the strong beams, Nedry sees a SPITTER in the eerie mist. Now it’s gone. Now it’s back. It circles Nedry warily, hunting him. Nedry stares.

NEDRY

I hope this is one of them herbivores.

Nedry scrambles the other way, full-tilt. Hop, hop, and the Spitter drops in front of Nedry from the other side. HOOT!

Nedry jumps back, lands on his butt. The Spitter zips in from the side – HOOT!

Nedry doubles back, racing through the abandoned equipment, ducking and rolling under a cement mixer, spinning past a tree. He splashes down the embankment, trying to get to his jeep. He uses the winch line to steady himself again the raging current. He finally reaches the jeep, swings open the door – and, surging out of the water like a demonic apparition, is the SPITTER! Nedry backs away, directly into the glare of the headlights!

CLOSE ON – the Spitter. It’s plume opens, bright orange gills swell out like an umbrella around its neck. Something squirts beneath its jaws.

A big glob SMACKS Nedry on the arm. He brushes it off.

NEDRY

Gross.

EXTREME CLOSEUP – the Spitter’s head. The jaws puff, the hood flares out, the neck snaps forward. And – it spits. This glob misses Nedry, splashes off the steaming headlight.

VERY EXTREME CLOSEUP – The Spitter’s swollen poison sacs are inflated. They fire!

This glob hits Nedry in the eyes. He SCREAMS.

 NEDRY

I’m blind, I’m blind.

He falls against the jeep, rubbing his eyes. The Spitter calmly hops to the embankment and watches the blinded Nedry weave drunkenly in the water. Nedry grabs onto the jeep and pulls himself along toward the driver’s door. The Spitter stalks, watching him.

Nedry pulls open the jeep door, thrusts his head in, slams it against the door frame. Now Nedry heaves his whole body into the jeep. The Spitter’s long ostrich-like legs stretch and bend in an easy gait as it closes it on Nedry.

Nedry sits behind the wheel, unseeing as the Spitter watches patiently as Nedry turns his blind eyes that way.

A long beat. The Spitter leaps forward, the CAMERA PULLS BACK WIDER AND WIDER. Nedry lets out an ear-splitting SCREAM and the car horn BLARES.

Crichton doesn’t name camera shots for all the action going on, but we can picture the camera at a Full Shot watching as Nedry gets attacked. And in that final wider shot, we see the scene laid out before us: Nedry in the car screaming, the Spitter outside the car with something like a victorious look on its face, the car in the mud in the gulley, stuck and at an angle, its headlights glaring into the gloom. We shake our heads and feel sorry for the guy. Or maybe not.

This week, as you read other people’s novels, try to find places where a Pull Back wraps up a scene. See how the author used (or didn’t) for good effect by either revealing something important or showing a wider purview of the situation. Note if the character gets a new insight or view that helps them toward their plot goal. Think of places in your novel in which you can do the same.

2 Responses to “Pull Back for Revelation”

  1. Brooke Monfort July 17, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    Just as a note, an aside, since you are using a screenplay to demonstrate fiction techniques: any script that refers to any sort of camera angle, is called a “shooting script,” OR is the creation of a writer/director who intends to shoot the story they’re writing. Unknown screenwriters independently developing an idea with the hope of selling a finished script must develop what is called a “SPEC” script, and these MUST NOT EVER include any camera POV notes or references because that is the director’s job to determine. I only cite these differences in case any of your readers aspire to write screenplays, too.

  2. Curtis July 18, 2013 at 8:02 am #

    Brooke,
    Funny you should mention those differences in scripts. I personally know a screenwriter who explained recently how his (very powerful) scripts break that very rule. He’s now negotiating deals with producers in Hollywood.

Leave a Reply to Brooke Monfort

Gravatar Image

Yes—you CAN make a comfortable living as a writer. But you need a clear plan!
Enter your email to grab my proven 4-step system for mapping out your career (and you'll also get my useful twice-monthly updates!).

Yes—you CAN make a comfortable living as a writer. But you need a clear plan!

Enter your email to grab my proven 4-step system for mapping out your career (and you'll also get my useful twice-monthly updates!).

Awesome! Check your email for your free guide.