Read the text below and answer Questions 28–40.
Making the Cut
When we talk about how films convey meaning we tend to refer to acting, music, dialogue, props and narrative developments, but often forgotten is the visual essence of a film itself, which is the cutting together of moving images – “motion pictures” – each one carefully tailored to meet a particular need or purpose.
Most films and many important scenes within them open with an establishing shot. Typically this shot precedes our introduction to the main characters by presenting us with the locale in which the scene’s action or dialogue is about to occur. Occasionally, however, a director will use an establishing shot with another goal in mind. An opening view of a thousand soldiers parading in synchronized fashion might have little to reveal about the film’s geography, for example, but it does inform the audience that ideas about discipline and conformity are likely to arise in the material that follows. In this way, establishing shots can also introduce a film’s theme.
After an establishing shot, most directors choose a long shot in order to progress the narrative. This type of shot displays the entire human physique in relation to its surroundings, so it is ideal for bridging the narrative divide between location and individual activity. A long shot is therefore often used to centre on a pivotal character in the scene. A film might begin with an establishing shot of bleak, snowy mountains and then cut to a long shot of a lone skier, for example, or a sweeping panorama of a bustling metropolis could segue into a street view of someone entering a building.
From here the door is wide open for directors to choose whichever shots will enhance the narration. Close-up shots are popular in suspense sequences – a handgun being loaded, a doorknob being turned, the startled expression of someone freshly roused from sleep. Confining the visual field in this way adds to the viewer’s apprehension. Dramatic films will probably want to emphasise character interaction. The third-person shot – in which a third of the frame consists of a rear view of a person’s upper torso and head – can be effectively utilised here. This shot encourages us to actually slip into the persona of that character, and vicariously live through their experiences.
A number of special-purpose shots are used quite rarely – once, if at all, in most films. One such type is the money shot. A money shot has no specific technical features or content, but is typically the most expensive element of a film’s production values and comes with a cost massively disproportionate to its screen time (which may be limited to just a brief glimpse). Because of its spectacular, extravagant nature, however, the money shot is a major revenue generator and is widely exploited for use in promotional materials. Money shots are most popular amongst – but not limited to – high visual-impact genres such as action, war, thriller and disaster films.
But more affordable shots can also add an interesting twist to the story. The Dutch tilt can depict a character in a state of psychological unease by shooting them from a jaunty angle. In this way they appear literally and metaphorically unbalanced. A trunk shot often shows a small group of characters peering into the trunk of a vehicle. It is filmed from a perspective within the trunk itself, although frequently to avoid camera damage directors will simply place a detached piece of trunk door in the corner of the frame. This shot was a favourite of Quentin Tarantino and has been used in many crime and gangster films, often as a first-person shot through the eyes of someone who is tied up and lying inside the vehicle. A shot that has gained traction in avant-garde circles is the extreme close-up. This is when a single detail of the subject fills up the entire frame. Alfred Hitchcock famously used an extreme close-up in ‘Psycho’, when he merged a shot of a shower drain into a view of a victim’s eye. It has also been used in Westerns to depict tension between duelling gunmen eyeing each other up before a shoot out.
Not all types of shots are used in order to enhance the narrative. Sometimes financial restrictions or technical limitations are a more pressing concern, especially for low-budget film makers. In the early murder mysteries of the 1920s and 1930s, the American shot – which acquired its name from French critics who referred to a “plan américain” – was used widely for its ability to present complex dialogue scenes without alterations in camera position. Using the American shot, directors have their cast assemble in single file while discussing key plot points. The result is an efficiently produced scene that conveys all relevant information, but the trade off is a natural tone. Because few people in real life would ever associate in such an awkward manner, American shots tend to result in a hammy, stiff feel to the production.
Look at the following descriptions (Questions 28–33) and the list of terms below.
Match each description with the correct term, A–J.
28. A group of people, full length body shot
29. Two people, only one facing camera, head and shoulders shot
30. Distance shot of central city, from the air
31. A single person, head and shoulders, off-centre angle shot
32. Lone pedestrian, walking a city street
33. A flaming bus, about to crash
List of Terms
A. Trunk shot
B. Dutch tilt
C. Establishing shot
D. Money shot
E. American shot
F. Long shot
G. Extreme close-up
H. Third-person shot
I. First-person shot
Answer the questions below:
Choose no more than three words from the passage for each answer.
34. Which two aspects of story can be shown with an establishing shot?
35. What does a long shot focus our attention on?
36. What do close-ups restrict in order to make audiences nervous?
37. What does a third-person shot place importance on?
Complete the summary below.
Choose no more than two words fom the text for each answer.
|Some shots are not used very often. Money shots have a high 38 .......... considering that they only last for a few seconds. The money shot brings in a lot of money, however, and is an important part of the film’s 39 ............ Other, less expensive shots can still be fascinating: a character can be made to seem 40 ........... in both mind and body when filmed with a Dutch tilt, for instance.|
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