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  • Writer's pictureBen Anstruther


Today I’m going to discuss the cinematography ideas I have for the film. As I am an aspiring writer/director, I think about the film visually and sonically which helps me inform what I need to write in the script. I know it would be prudent to detach the literature on the page from the visual/sound ideas which should come later once the script has been finished but I just can’t do that.

The idea and the script in its current form is taking place in a sort of heightened reality so the cinematography will have to reflect that best it can. As mentioned in my post on production design, the first aim is to make these dull everyday offices cinematic. 

These are stills from a court room film we made called White Heat, what this demonstrates in this genre of film can be made cinematically and also on a tight-to-no budget:

Watch the film here:

The first step in achieving this is to have no practicals on the set (with the exception of the occasional laptop screen). This also includes windows. We want the spaces to be claustrophobic and oppressive as that is how Nina feels and being able to communicate as much information about the character as possible without exposition is so essential. As well as this the audience can participate vicariously in Nina’s state of mind which will hopefully make the film more stressful to watch.

How we will achieve this is to have two lights, positioned beside the right side of the two desks on the right-hand side (see images below), bounced off a large source, either a poly board or a white curtain. That way the audience won’t as readily be able to tell where the light is coming from which will add to the sense of disorientation. We will also get shadows on the face by doing this which will be aided by a black curtain on the other side. Alongside this we will have a gaffer slash in the background as shown below. This will be achieved using a point source light and potentially a cardboard cut out to help shape the light in order to achieve that angular line as shown below. We will also have two dedolights on set for shots where we need to pick out details on the set as well as a light from behind the door that will be diffused to match the bounced source. 

Foreground elements will be used to frame characters to help create that sense of being trapped - this will include lots of over the shoulder shots. We will be filming in 4:3 as that is a format which I am married to but also is perfect for the characters, locations and the shot types. This a shot from my last film Connection, which has a paper in front of the camera which the character interacts with. I hope we can have similar shots in this film.

The camerawork will follow the story structure. At that the start it will be locked off with the occasional slow pan and tilt. Then as the day begins to progress we will move to using a gimbal and tracks (I personally don’t like the way a stedicam looks). Once the situation begins to spiral out of control, we will move to handheld camerawork to highlight the characters’ exasperation. It will only be slightly noticeable the camera shakes as I personally don’t like the aesthetic that much but recognise that it can be used effectively if done tastefully. 

The thing I am most excited about in the cinematography is something which I don’t think has been done before or at least not that much or something I have been aware of - and maybe there’s a good reason for that which we will find out why - but it’s to have lens-coded characters. Every piece of equipment is a tool for telling a story and that extends to lenses. The four principal characters, Nina, Gordon, Trevor and Chantelle, will always be shot on a different focal length to help the audience understand who these characters are. Nina, who is always under pressure, either internally or externally, will be shot on long focal lengths with a lot of compression, 70-100mm though I imagine the 85mm will be used most prominently for her. These lengths will tighten as the tension builds. Gordon who is always composed will be shot solely on a 50mm as this is the length which most accurately reflects a human face on camera. Chantelle will be shot on a 35mm and Trevor on a 24mm as they both have a care-free and disregarding view of their job. 

I am excited about this because it isn’t something that has been readily done, and maybe there’s a great reason for that, but hopefully this will elevate the film rather than detract from it and be viewed as a gimmick.

A film which has been a great inspiration on the look of the film has been Richard Ayoade’s The Double, a very underrated film and film-maker - seriously he needs to make another film! It has quite an expressive look which reflects the off-kilter and surrealist tone of the film but I much prefer that to the standard and conventional look of something like say Glengarry Glen Ross.


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