Written by: Troy Brashear Jr.
THE WORST FEELING in the world is to feel out of the loop. In recent years, I have finally developed an interest in film. Most of my friends that are also into films are really into film. They know what they are talking about, or at least they sound like they do. They know all of the technical terms and are observant of them while watching films. Afterward, they can come up with interesting analyses of the films and they have an intellectual conversation about the films on a subjective and objective level. They talked about the directing, the acting, the lighting and the cinematography. I felt out of place. My only contributions to the conversation were phrases like, “That scene was cool,” or “Yeah, I liked the movie.”
I truly have an interest in films, but I was a little behind the curve. I couldn’t find anything of substance to take from the film. My friends are true film buffs. Over time, I have gotten better at analyzing and criticizing films, but there is always more to learn as I watch more films. The best place to start to become a true film buff is vocabulary. This vocabulary is provided by The Columbia Film Language Glossary.
Shots, Scene, Sequence
A shot consists of a single take. A scene is composed of several shots. A sequence is composed of scenes.
Example: A conversation is being had between two people sitting across from each other at a table. The camera will record each actor individually when they are speaking at various points during the conversation. These recordings are shots. There would be a back-and-forth of two shots of each character when they say a particular line(s) from the script. Scenes are typically a shot or series of shots at a particular location. Once, the location changes, the previous scene ends and the next begins. A location change could be as specific as a room change or as broad as a building change, interior to exterior, or even city, country or continent change. In some cases, planet changes. A sequence is a series of scenes that flow as a smaller narrative. Let’s say that our two actors who were having previously imagined conversation, are a defendant and his defense lawyer. They wrap up their conversation and the defendant leaves the lawyer’s office, but now we move to the prosecutor’s office where he is filing through papers while talking with his secretary. Both of these conversations are being had in regard to the larger plot but can be told separately, almost like their own story within the larger story. These two scenes together are called a sequence.
An act is composed of sequences.
The standard plot structure is exposition/introduction, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. These sections are called acts. Some writers and directors are a little broader and the acts are just simply the beginning, the middle and the end and these five acts sort of blend together into three.
Camera angle refers to where the camera is placed in relation to the subject of the image.
We can go more in-depth about camera angles in another blog. There are so many that it deserves its own spotlight.
Mise-en-scène originated in the theater and is used in film to refer to everything that goes into the composition of a shot (framing, movement of the camera and characters, lighting, set design and the visual environment, and sound).
Mise-en-scène is French for “staging.” This isn’t a term that many casual film buffs throw around, but it’s cool to know. You could definitely use it to show off a little. Also, you know something in French now. It’s the small victories.
These are just beginner terms. We will dive deeper into other terms and aspects in more detail in the next blog, such as types of shots and transitions, lighting and sound, and camera movement.