I’ve learnt a lot examining how films are structured from Michael Wiese Productions books. With ‘Cinematic Storytelling’ by Jennifer Van Sijll, it’s time to examine how various directors make the best of crucial scenes to set the mood that the viewer interprets. Having one hundred recognised conventions shown will not leave much that isn’t covered, although several films make regular reoccurrences here.
A lot of the time, in prose stories, the viewer is left to his or her own devices as to character placement. I presume most people unconsciously assume dialogue is done face to face, unless told otherwise. Getting tips on how to do this filmatically should open up other avenues for you to at least think about.
There is a lot to learn, too. I mean, did you know that heroes always enter the scene from the left and villains from the right. Seeing Hitchcock doing this with his 1951 film ‘Strangers On A Train’ but from only showing the feet breaks with convention and still an eye-opener.
There are some SF examples included but you really should be treating this book as a means to seeing how various scene changes are achieved than looking for them. There is also some pointers about changes that were possible when new lighter cameras like the SteadiCam, came into use that wouldn’t have been possible before.
In many respects, I think this book would be of more use to the comicbook artist than the prose writer, mostly because of the amount of visual information given. I hope it will be used as a learning platform than copying what famous directors have done in the past. If you’re getting into real film-making then this book is as good as going on a course, although I would suggest watching the films used as examples to see it in motion to match the stills in this book.
(pub: Michael Wiese Productions. 257 page illustrated oblong enlarged paperback. Price: $24.95 (US), £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-932907-05-6)