This is the third filmmaking exercise that my students complete in Year 9 Media. The first and second filmmaking exercises involved shooting storyboarded sequences to develop an understanding of shot size, composition, establishing shots, action calls, marks, coverage, screen direction, bridging shots and continuity editing.
In this exercise, students storyboard and shoot the following sequence: A character walks into an empty part of the school yard. They stop suddenly in surprise and amazement when they notice some prop money (Monopoly money works great!) sitting in the middle of nowhere. They look around suspiciously. It doesn’t seem like anyone else is around. Hesitantly, they reach forward, looking around again, fingers inching closer to the note. There is a look of excitement on the character’s face, the money is almost within reach. They are millimetres away from the note when, suddenly, someone else snatches it away. Our hero is shocked. The thief sneers in triumph and snaps the note in triumph. They fold it up, taking their time, and put it in their pocket. They give a final sneer and saunter off. Our hero frowns. Shoulders slumped, they shuffle away sadly…
This exercise demonstrates important filmmaking concepts, including:
• Shot size. Even a simple story like this requires the use of different shot sizes to clearly convey the story. First time filmmakers are often reluctant to get the camera close enough to the action. When you are planning your sequence, keep in mind that it calls for a lot of close ups and extreme close ups. When making this scene, you are not permitted to move the camera in any way. Use continuity editing and cutting on action to transition smoothly between shots. Don’t forget to begin the scene with appropriate establishing shots.
• Storyboarding. Storyboarding, the process of previsualizing your film on paper, is a very powerful way of visually planning your film before you start shooting. For this exercise, you are going to create hand drawn storyboards to convey what you want to shoot. The best storyboards are quick, clear and simple. They show emotion, they show movement and—most importantly—they give your cast and crew a clear sense of how shots should be composed.
• Continuity editing. Continuity editing, or matching on action, is one of the most important lessons you can learn as a filmmaker. When you film something from two shot sizes or angles, recreating the performance of the actor both times, you will be able to cut seamlessly from one shot to the other as the actor performs a particular action. Cutting on action creates a seamless bridge between two shots that your audience won’t notice. The motion will flow smoothly from one shot to the next. More importantly, this allows filmmakers to move between different shot sizes and camera angles without zooming or moving the camera unnecessarily. When shooting action from different angles, it’s important that to make sure that the actors recreate their performances precisely. If your actor is standing in the wrong place, or has a different expression on their face, cutting between two different shots will create jarring lapses in continuity.
• The clean frame technique. An approach to capture shots where you start and end with the character out of frame. In other words, you begin and end with a clean frame. The clean frame technique encourages you to capture as much of the action as you can, giving you maximum flexibility when you are editing.
You will need approximately four of these storyboarding sheets to sketch out your storyboards for this sequence.