Rules of Shot Composition: How Nightcrawler Creates Empathy with Eyes #antiheroexamples
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Rules of Shot Composition: How Nightcrawler Creates Empathy with Eyes #antiheroexamples

October 10, 2019


Look deep into someone’s eyes. What do you see? Their intentions? Their nature? Their soul? This certainly seems to be the case
in Dan Gilroy’s “Nightcrawler.” When you show the viewer
the eyes of a character, you build empathy. Conversely,
if you hide the eyes of a character, you eliminate their humanity. Gilroy crafted one of the
great characters in cinema. Lou Bloom. A hungry coyote stalking his prey through
the desert landscape. We’re going to use StudioBinder`s
production software to analyze how Dan Gilroy
used the eyes of Lou Bloom to help tell his story. Remember to subscribe below and click the bell icon
to stay in the loop. Director Dan Gilroy worried that once the viewer
realized Lou was a psychopath, they`d write him off. “We always wanted
to keep a connection between the audience
and Jake’s character. We never wanted to
make a moral decision. “Oh, he’s a sociopath,
always a psychopath.” We were always looking for
the humanity in the character and it’s something we
worked very hard on.” So he crafted his
script and visuals to curb the viewer`s suspicions. Gilroy knows that when you
show the eyes of a character, you build empathy
within the viewer. “A proper frame not only
draws the eye into a picture but keeps it there longer, dissolving the barrier between the
subject in the outside of the frame.” Showing a character’s eyes
relies on three elements. Shot Selection, Lighting,
and Presentation. Let’s look at a scene. “I think being clear
with your objectives is more important than
trying to present your ideas in a non-confrontational
manner.” In this example,
Lou chats with Nina, the news producer
played by Rene Russo. “-Where get all that?
-I study a lot online. – Yeah, like what? – All sorts of things, actually. I’m on my computer all day.” They make small talk,
until we arrive here. We don’t truly see Lou`s eyes in the
scene, until this moment. “Last year, I took an online
business course, for example, and I learned that you have
to have a business plan before starting a business. That why you pursue something is equally as important
as what you pursue.” The lines in this scene gradually
moved closer to Lou`s heart and in turn,
we gradually get closer to his eyes. “The question was,
what do I love to do?” The lighting is studio lighting. Gilroy never cuts away from
Lou`s well-lit and hopeful eyes. He doesn’t want
to hide anything. “So, they suggested making a list
of your strengths and weaknesses. What am I good at? What am I not good at? Maybe I want to strengthen and develop knowledge
about the things I’m already good at. Maybe I want to
strengthen my weaknesses.” And the presentation
he leaves to his actor. The lines of dialogue and
the visuals humanize him. “I recently remade my list. And I’m thinking the television
news might just be something I love. As well as something I
happen to be good at. On TV, it looks so real.” Let’s look at another one. “TV news, what happened?” How does Gilroy
use shot selection, lighting and presentation
in this scene? “We approach it
sort of symbolically as he’s an animal and we’re
filming a wildlife documentary. So cinematically,
we tried to capture the physical beauty with wide-angle lenses and
a great depth of field. Gilroy has Lou framed
in a medium shot. And the lighting
while naturally dark is not cast on Lou in a
particularly ominous fashion. For presentation, Gilroy uses his score. The inspirational music isn’t
here to support Lou`s crime, but rather his
passion for his work. Lou feels a sense of
profound affirmation that he would do
anything for his career. The viewer doesn’t have to agree with
the characters actions or morals. They just need to gain a better
understanding of the character. The various themes
of “Nightcrawler” are supported by the visual
battles between night and day. Moral and immoral. And this contrasting imagery
paints a complete picture. We see Lou during his highs and his lows. And what we gain is
a complete character. To recap, when considering how to
frame the eyes of a character keep in mind. Shot selection. Lighing. And Presentation. What are your favorite examples of a
director using the character’s eyes to help tell the story? Tell us in the comments. Check the description to
sign up for StudioBinder`s shot listing and
production software. It’s free to get started. Subscribe to our channel. Click the bell icon for updates
and follow us on Instagram. Because as Lou Bloom knows. “Rick, they’ve done studies and they found that in any
system that relies on cooperation these experts have
identified communication, as the number one
single key to success. You know a fear stands for but false evidence
appearing real.

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