How Kubrick, Spielberg, and Inarritu Stage their Scenes
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How Kubrick, Spielberg, and Inarritu Stage their Scenes

October 12, 2019

♪ ♪ When you combine camera placement,
movement, and actor blocking, a filmmaker can create an almost infinite
number of cinematic combinations. ♪ ♪ Each shot is an opportunity to
tell a complete story with subtext. ♪ ♪ Yet, many filmmakers default
to standard coverage. The result – every
movie looks the same and says very little. In this video, we’re going to show
you how you can stage your scenes to increase their
cinematic energy and convey a deeper
meaning visually. How you ask? Through blocking and staging. The unspoken dance between
the actors and the camera. The term blocking refers to how
characters move through a scene and interact with
their environment. ♪ ♪ Staging is the placement
and movement of the camera in relation to blocking. When blocking and staging
work together in harmony, it can make the difference between
watching a functional scene or a subtext rich visual story. We’re going to analyze three
scenes from popular directors. Before we jump into our examples,
make sure to subscribe below and click the bell icon
to stay in the loop. Let’s jump in. Our first example is from Steven Spielberg’s
“Minority Report.” ♪ ♪ The scene begins with a close-up
shot of a wooden pre-crime ball. “- And the pre-cogs declare
a victim and a killer their name is embedded
in the grain of wood. Since each piece is unique,
the shape and grain is unique, the shape and grain is
impossible to forge. – I’m sure you all understand the legalistic
drawback to Precrime methodology. – Here we go Again. – Look, I’m not with
the ACLU on this, Jeff. But, let’s not kid ourselves, we arresting individuals
who have broken no law. – But they will. – The commission of the crime
itself is absolute metaphysics. The pre-cogs see the future
and they’re never wrong.” Fletcher explains the logic behind
their department’s technology, but then Witwer brings
up the ethical conundrum that faces the
pre-crime initiative. Notice the staging changes. “- Here we go again. – Look, I’m not with
the ACLU on this, Jeff. But let’s not kid ourselves, we arresting individuals
who have broken no law. – But they will.
The commission…” Their physical positions now
represent their personal beliefs. Witwer on one side of the room, Precrime on the other. “- But it’s not the
future if you stop it. Isn’t that a
fundamental paradox?” When Witwer steal the
wind from their sales in walks our hero,
John Anderton. “- Yes, it is. You’re talking about predetermination,
which happens all the time? Why’d you catch that? – Because it was going to fall. – You’re certain?
– Yeah. – But it didn’t fall. You caught it. The fact that you
prevent it from happening doesn’t change the fact
that it was going to happen. – If we get any
false positives…” When Witwer mentions
false positives we cut. Now on the other side of the line
and a neutral shot behind Fletcher. They’re evenly matched. The audience in the middle. This shot visually asks the viewer
to make their own determination. Are you with Anderton or Witwer? “- Someone intends to
kills his boss or his wife, but they never go
through with it. How did the pre-cogs
tell the difference? – Pre-cogs see what
you intend to do. Only what you will do. – Then why they can’t see
rapes or assaults or suicides. – Because the nature of murder.” Anderton then takes a seat
comfortable in his beliefs. “…untimely murder of one
human being by another. – Somehow,
I don’t think that was Walt Whitman. – Iris Hineman. She developed pre-cogs,
designed a system and pioneered the interface. – Speaking of interface
and I’d love to say hello. – To Hineman? – To them. – Cops aren’t allowed
inside the temple. – Really?
– You’ve never been inside. – We keep strict separation so that no one can be
accused of tampering. – So I’ll be the first
one to go inland. – Maybe you didn’t hear me. – If it’s a question of authority–
– You know, there’s no question. You don’t have any. – I have a warrant in my
pocket that says different.” When Witwer mentions
the warrant, Anderton’s once comfortable
seat becomes compromised. Witwer now in
control of the scene. “- Show it to me. – Sure. This investigation of pre-crime and
it’s personnel is being conducted under the direct supervision and express permission from the
Attorney General of the United States. I’m here as his representative, which means you’re now
operating under my supervision. Seems to be left out of the
loop, John.” The body language,
shot composition, and dialogue combined to
deflate Anderson’s power. Spielberg was able to change
the meaning behind the blocking through dialogue
and body language. This is truly
masterful directing. But what about staging
a scene with fewer cuts? ♪ ♪ Let’s look at our second example from “Clockwork Orange”
directed by Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick started his
career as a photographer. And you can see this in
his shot compositions. ♪ ♪ Similar to a photograph, Kubrick stages his
scenes so a single frame communicates a complete story. His staging has deep meaning. In this scene, the Droogs are
positioned in a triangle. With Georgie’s legs
extended towards Dim. As Alex comes down the
stairs, the Droogs look up. “- Hi-hi-hi that.” The blunt end of his
cane aimed at Dim. Notice the compositional
lines created by both a cane, but also the handrail. All eyes are on Alex. “Welly, welly, welly,
welly, welly, well. To what do I owe
the extreme pleasure of this surprising visit?” All eyes turn to Georgie which guide our eyes as well. “We got worried.” Then we get our first cut. “There we were, waiting and drinking
away at the old knifey moloko and you had not turned up.” When Georgie leans in, notice the position of his
shadow in the background. There’s a little treat
aimed at his face. Staging Georgie and
Dim in this way, tells us where allegiances lie. “- And we thought you might have
been, like… offended by something or other. So around we come to your adobe. – Appy polly logies.” We caught to a new wide shot. The pointed end of
the cane aimed at Dim. Notice how the shadows
guide our eyes. Kubrick then presents a very obvious
moment of intimidation and superiority. “- Let’s get things nice
and sparkling clear. This sarcasm,
if I may call it such does not become you,
all my little brothers. As I am your droog and leader, I’m entitled to know what goes
on, eh? – Yeah. – Now then, Dim. What does that great big
horsey gape of a grin portend? – All right,
no more picking on Dim, brother. That’s part of the new way.” The entire scene is all about
testosterone, alpha status. The graffiti on the wall,
the jockstraps, the cane. And Kubrick’s blocking
and camerawork, support the moment
to perfection. But what if you want to stage
a scene without cutting at all? Let’s look at our third
example from “Birdman.” ♪ ♪ In this scene, Sam’s movement leads the
camera to Larry – the costume designer. ” -He is here. – Okay, thank the Lord
and pass the biscuits. I finally have an
actor to dress. – How’ve you been Larry?
– Better now that you’re here…” When staging your
tracking shots, make sure important
information is always in view. “You just gonna stand there?” Iñárritu uses the mirror
to extend our view. Production design can be used to enhance
the effectiveness of your direction. Notice that the actors are placed
at varying depths in the frame. Larry is seated
closest to the camera. Mike in the middle. And Sam’s reflection
in the very back. “Holy sh–! What’s happening?
Where your underpants? – Under the bed at
home, I think.” Iñárritu cleverly
moves Larry out of view as Leslie enters. “Everything’s too small.” This gives us space
to see Leslie. “Oh, that’s nice. Forgive him, Larry.
Mike’s like my 5-years old son. Neither of them has
clean underwear.” Consider what the actions on screen
tell us about each of these characters. Mike both admires and critiques
his image in the mirror. Sam is on her phone, distracted in the background. And Leslie is focused
on her career, but also in a hurry. Each little subtle action paint a very full picture of
their individual personalities. “- Trousers and
shirts and underwear.” Leslie moves towards us. “- What are you doing?
– Waiting on Larry.” Complaining about
Mike’s immaturity and Sam’s lingering. “- Well, get dressed. Raegan’s daughter hanging around
and I don’t need her to walk in. No, Mike, you haven’t seen her. She’s always hanging
around, watching everyone like little miss creepy.
– Less…” The mirror keeps
us constantly aware that Sam is still in the room. “- I don’t know if it’s the drugs
that fried her brain or what but just don’t want her
running to her father, saying you showed
her your junk.” When Mike finally reveals that
Sam is in fact in the room. “- Then we should
ask her to leave. – Oh God, really?” Iñárritul gives us a great close
up view of Leslie’s reaction. He knew this moment
was important and that Leslie’s face gives
a scene the biggest payoff. “- Sammy. – It’s Sam. – Leslie. – Listen, when I said that…
– Don’t worry about it. He’s a handful, huh?” “Action.” Iñárritu used intelligent
blocking and staging to land in this
shot at this moment. I should give this guy
an award or something. “Alejandro González Iñárritu.” (applauds) To recap. We showed you how Spielberg
uses blocking and body language to represent a shift in power. We showed you how Kubrick directs
the eyes with lines and shapes. And we showed you how Iñárritul changes
composition during his long takes. So that it culminates
in a big reaction shot. “Oh god, really?” What are your favorite
examples of blocking? How did the director use
it to elevate the material? Tell us in the comments. If you’re planning compositions
that are beyond standard coverage, it’s helpful to use a shotlist
or storyboard to map it out. Check the description to
sign up for StudioBinder. It’s free to get started. Remember to subscribe
to our channel for more videos like this. Click the bell icon
for notifications and follow us on
our Instagram page. Very well,
my brothers and sisters. ♪ ♪

Only registered users can comment.

  1. I don't care about celebrities, nor actors, let alone directors, cinematographers, gaffers, etc. But with each of your educational videos, I'm starting to develop an interest in behind-the-scenes guys, like directors, cinematographers, gaffers, sound recorders, post-production editors, etc. Thank you, Mr. sexy voice behind the scene. You guys are doing a good job at enlightening people like me.
    BTW, can you make a video about literature/music/cinema 101? Like, book suggestions, e.g. literature/cinema language, or ways on how to write a character (I've heard about some Ruby guy whose book is quite popular; I'm sure there's plenty of interesting and educational material out there that some of us might not know about). It would be nice to have a 100% useful info on where and what to look for instead of aimless surfing on Amazon and whatnot.

  2. The narrator is ascribing meaning to every camera move telling the audience what it means, which means it's not obvious and is a subjective interpretation. In other words, if it wasn't blocked the way it was blocked, it wouldn't mean the same thing. That's bull. 100 directors could block the scenes in 100 different ways and THIS video would say exactly the same thing.

  3. I love all these movies and the Director's I would like to see difference Between Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez also Edgar Wright and Guy Ritchie and how they shoot there Scenes.

  4. How much of this kind of planning lies in the hand of the director and not the cinematographer? And vise versa? Great video!

  5. Your knowledge and products are marvelous. I am a big fan of your channel. if you don't mind, I am suggesting you, target Indian film industry. It is small compared to Hollywood but 3.7 billion dollars industry. Highest number of films produce here. More than twice of Hollywood every year. I just tell you, don't ignore.

  6. Funny thing, this is excatly what I'm doing now, lining the script and planing my shots and I'm drawing the stage and blocking, just made a little stop and open youtube and this video was up, that is great. Thanks for sharing a lot of good information and inspirations on it. I'm doing this old school with rulers, pencils, an eraser, and colored pens. drawing each scene move, I believe it helps the process, but this animation in the video is really cool. Is this available on your app, or is it just made to illustrate the scene? Thanks for sharing.

  7. People often say my direction is a bit mechanical and robotic, but this is just my auteurist spirit. Yes, I am a robot. Yes, I make movies for a robotic audience, but does this mean my films have no humanity? Just because I don't ascribe to your sentient approach to art doesn't mean my films shouldn't be considered by your film deity referred to as Oscar. I suppose you can't spell "discrimination" without the word "nation" or "disc"… or even "scrim".

  8. What I’m mostly interested in is how they develop the blocking for each scene. The outcome effects are fascinating but what is the causal thought process that goes into developing such masterful nuanced level blocking?

    How much time do they spend in rehearsal reiterating the staging? What parameters do they use to come up with such placements? Etc. If anyone has an idea, I’m all ears.

  9. Those film makers after seeing these kind of vid essays would be…
    Like seriously? Never knew you guys wanna infer all the scenes this way or that! so funny!

    Sad that a film becomes a subject of detailed analysis once it becomes a cult classic… Else no one bothers a bit or wanna shame them else.

  10. Thanks for such a video! I can´t afore filmaking classes but I always learn a lot with this channel. Love you all guys!!

  11. hello, my english is malo, i would like a special kubrick analyzing scenes kubrick filmography, the videos is very good, thanks

  12. Great video. Nerdwriter has a good video about Alferd Hitchcock blocking in Vertigo. Best day & Best wishes to you & yours.

  13. The only thing I don't like about this video is that there's no mention of the Cinematographers these directors worked with. The director has of course a big impact on the style, but his focus is more on the performance of the actors. It is the D.O.P. (Director of Photography) that mostly decides on blocking, staging and lighting.

  14. Very Informative….i think its best video on youtube fir showing importance of blocking and making ur film more EFFICIENT nd EFFECTIVE

  15. what's the film at the end of the video with the two people in high contrast with the background kissing?? With other people walking past them

  16. Alexander Sokurov's "Russian Ark"(2002) seems a grand, gigantic and godly example of Film Blocking.
    To name a few:Hitchcock, PT Anderson, Tarantino, Jonathan Nolan and Wong-kar-Wai intrigue me always with their blocking.
    This is becoming the best film analysis, film making channel.

  17. I have one question: did Spielberg follow the 180° rule in the Minority Report sequence or, did he improvise , break it or bend the rule? I am confused after seeing from so many angles. Can you help me crack it?
    (Learned Abt 180 ° rule from one of your tutorials)

  18. Thanks for your nice video, but in the video if possible please add the CC of Hindi language so that many Indians may understand purely who is not fluent in English.

  19. Hi!
    I'm a young french filmmaker and i'm about to make my very first professional short film. I needed that kind of video, so thank you a lot. I doesn't exist yet in France. So thank you so much for your work 🙂

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