Cinematic Storytelling by Jennifer Van Sijll (book review).

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.

Cinematic Storytelling by Jennifer Van Sijll (book review).
Cinematic Storytelling by Jennifer Van Sijll (book review).

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.

GF Willmetts

January 2014

(pub: Michael Wiese Productions. 257 page illustrated oblong enlarged paperback. Price: $24.95 (US), £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-932907-05-6)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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