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Story Within a Frame: Defining Moments

September 19, 2011

The New World, 2005

A single still image can tell an entire narrative for the thousands that follow.

It’s officially been a month at AFI, and so much has been covered already. This week we will finally call action on our Bootcamp shoots and I think it’s safe to say that all fellows are ready to crush it. So what have we done in the meantime? Lots of administrative orientations, course introductions, and bonding within our disciplines. It’s amazing how close I feel with my fellow cinematographers already. So many different walks of life, yet with a very similar point of interest. One big happy family!

And now back to the post:

One particular exercise that I really enjoy is titled, “Story Within a Frame”. It is what it is: We have a cutline, drawn from a fishbowl, telling an event or emotion in first person. From there we must design and shoot a still that tells as much of that story as possible. We have 3 sessions in the exercise. The first is pairing with our directors, the second with the production designers, and finally one with the screenwriters. So far we have completed the first two. It’s a teamwork exercise. Getting to know one another in the creative zone is the best way to form successful communication and collaborative vision in our cycle films down the road. And it has been great. For me the first round proved to be the most challenging. I won’t go into detail, but my director and I didn’t dig deep enough into our story, and the audience was left questioning it’s point. For the second session I went too literal, and the floodgates opened with great constructive criticism from the group. I’m quite confident that I’ve learned the over/under of the assignment (I’m somewhat rusty with school assignments like this…it’s been a few!) and I know that the third session coming up will be better. I’ll find a nice middle-ground to engage meaning behind my frame.

So…This assignment has inspired me to dig up a few still frames from some great films that do justice to fulfilling a story within a frame. It’s really amazing how much meaning can be packed in to de-mystify (or mystify) these images in context to the films they are taken from. Yet at the same time, they can tell so much on their own, apart from the film. Think about the things you see in the frame. What are they doing? Where are they going? What emotions do we get from it? Is it familiar? What ideologies can we automatically identify? Time to define these moments.

Children of Men, 2006

The Thin Red Line, 1998

Never Let Me Go, 2010

Schindler's List, 1993

La Haine, 1995

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, 2007

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2008

The Road to Perdition, 2002

2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968

Black Narcissus, 1947

Badlands, 1973

There Will Be Blood, 2007

Solaris, 2002

The Godfather, 1972

The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford, 2007

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 18, 2012 7:24 am

    One, in many ways, that mimicked similar “gimme” photo shoots and hunts that I had attempted before.

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