Character Studies Through a Lens

I'm working on several stories right now, and huge influences have come from revisiting Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. It's hugely informed my thought process on "how and why a camera moves"

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Paul Schrader wrote it in a fortnight, and the bulk of the dialogue while he was sleeping in his car, dealing with a life spiralling down. The end product was a Neo-noir, with grit, filth, and rough imagery that's well placed and poetic.

I'm attracted to making a story about a character study, or something centric to a protagonist's point of view. The first thing I appreciated was the fact that the narrative of the film, after the titles, opens on Travis' eyes. This movie opens up, letting us know that we're going to see the world through this person's point of view and mind, not necessarily how it is.

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There are stories where the camera is motivated and seduced by people in the action, and stories where the movements toward, or away from a subject let you know the drive and importance in every scene (whether it's a person, a point of view, or an object).

Notice in the following clip, how the camera moves away from the conversation on the phone. The camera knows where the conversation is going; it knows Travis' efforts are futile and it's moving away from the phone to where he's gonna be.



In this scene, Travis wants to
connect to someone - but he chooses to do it at a dirty movie theatre; the last place a woman wants attention. He's angling for a conversation, and the moment we punch to close ups: It's startling! It's fast! It's abrasive! It's a slammed door - it's harsh.


The takeaway is: We were on them both wide, like a man waiting at a knocked door, waiting to be invited inside - but she slams it with a rejection. The camera's proximity or the intimacy of the angle has to be earned/honest. Hence the timing of when we get there is important. We didn't punch into them, intimately, prematurely.

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The story I'm working on is intended to be a relationship between an audience and the camera.

I want to tell a story where the camera's attention is being competed for; I want the audience to think they're watching a 90's romance, and they should be paying attention to one protagonist, and their efforts, in a new partnership/relationship.

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I want the narrative to in the third act, turn. The first three acts were something delicious you tasted, before it made your stomach suddenly ache with the fourth act.

Your protagonist is actually the other partner of the equation, and they must escape the person the camera initially trusted - the audience isn’t in a romance, they are in the thralls of a villain. The camera, the audience, and the players were seduced, and must escape stronger than before.

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Think: "From Dusk Till Dawn". One minute you're watching a crime/thriller, and then in the final act, it's an overblown horror action extravaganza.

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That's all there is for now, and I won't be ready to share more until I've made my mark on the story and have something concrete and copyrighted.

But it's films like this that help me understand the construction and art to making a camera move with intention - making it ignore one thing and fall in love with the next.
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