Having your character facing away from the person they’re talking to is a great way to film a confession or unveil a terrible secret. The advantage of this style of shot composition is that the person making the confession is framed in close up, emphasising the subtlety of their performance while showing the reaction of the person they are talking to. This can also create a sense of emotional distance or accentuate the difficult of what they are saying. It’s also aesthetically pleasing because it creates a sense of depth within the shot.
Examples of facing away
This style of shot composition is surprisingly common. Media teacher Rob Young calls it the Days of our Lives shot in reference to its extensive use in daytime soap operas.
In The Bourne Supremacy, director Paul Greengrass uses this shot when Ward Abbott (Brian Cox) confesses his involvement in the murder of Bourne’s girlfriend Marie.
In the BBC television series Sherlock, this framing technique is used relatively frequently, the aloof Sherlock facing away from Watson as he talks to them…or anyone else that he sees as intellectually inferior.
The next time you’re scripting a scene that involves a difficult conversation or confession, consider using this technique!