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Focusing the Camera on What Your Character Notices

While we’re looking at Full Shots (or Medium Shots), I’d like to share a great example in Leif Enger’s beautiful novel Peace like a River. Here we see eleven-year-old Reuben Land describe what happens in the bedroom he shares with his older brother, Davy. It’s late and the brothers are in bed, but trouble is brewing and has been for a while. Reuben startles at the sound of the floorboards creaking downstairs and trembles as he hears someone approaching their room. He realizes he’s waited too long to wake his brother. And then . . . Continue Reading…

Full Shot for Full Effect

We’ve taken a good look at Close-Up shots—the first of the three basic stationary camera shots used in movies. Now we’re going to explore the Full Shot or Medium Shot. There are an array of shots that fall between a Close-Up and a Long Shot, and they might be called a Full Shot, Medium Shot, Medium Long Shot, Figure Shot, or Complete View—but you probably get the idea. I’m going to simplify these in order to generalize their usage.

A Full Shot will show full figures or at least from the waist up (depending on the lens and type of Medium Shot). This shot showcases body language, and includes facial nuances. It conveys the dynamics of relationship through placement of characters in relation to one another and to the space/setting around them. A Full Shot may cover a conversation until an important point (or high moment) is being reached, and then either the Zoom or Close-Up will come into play—or a Pull Back to a Long Shot, to reveal a bigger picture. After the climactic moment, a return to the Full Shot might be utilized. Continue Reading…

Close-Ups Close the Distance

We’ve been looking at stationary camera shots, beginning with the Close-Up, which is perhaps the most common of all shots in a movie. Close-Ups allow writers to paint the flair into the story, which breathes life into it. Can you imagine showing every scene as if the camera was a football field away? Yes, there are times when you don’t want to show detail, and I’ll get more into that in later posts when we look at Long Shots.

But I believe it would be hard to successfully write an entire novel as if watching from far away (okay, there’s another challenge for those of you with too much time on your hands). Your characters would be shapes upon the landscape, and the reader wouldn’t be able to tell much of what they are doing. From that far away, your reader can’t hear what they’re saying, smell, taste, or touch anything. The distance distances readers—and that’s a problem. Readers want to be immersed in story and character, and you can’t achieve that by holding them at arm’s length—or relegating them to standing a hundred yards away. Continue Reading…

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