Films are all about action and representation. Every film, at its most basic revolves around characters talking, fighting, walking, or performing any sort of action that moves the plot forward. However, storytelling for the silver screen takes more than just placing your characters in front of the camera, yell action, and start rolling. To create and convey the mood, pacing, and overall feel of your movie, you want to know how to block your scenes effectively. Engaging your audience is all about where you place your camera, your actors, and how you choreograph your shots, scenes, and sequences to create a thrilling film. Let’s take a closer look at film blocking and what elements to consider when doing this for your scenes.
How to Block Out a Scene in Film
What is film blocking?
Film blocking is the process through which a director stages the scene they are about to shoot. It involves working directly with the actors, the first AD, and the cinematography department to set everything in place before the shooting itself.
Typically, the director and actors will go over their lines and the way they want the action to unravel. How they decide to carry out their performances for said scene will influence where the director wants to place the camera and how it moves along with the characters action throughout the scene.
In a more technical sense, blocking a scene is also essential to make sure the lighting setup does not interfere with the developing actions, and that the scene itself doesn’t jump any angles or generates any continuity errors.
What factors are important in film blocking?
As previously said, the most important elements in film blocking are the movement of the characters and the movement of the camera in relation to one another.
Generally, even if you have rehearsed the action and know where your characters will go, you want the movement to appear as natural as possible. To avoid ending up with any inorganic-looking shots that may disrupt the engagement of the audience, it is recommended to have the camera follow the characters instead of starting its movement ahead of them.
Film blocking also serves to add subtext to your visual storytelling. For instance, the thing about coordinating the movement of your characters is that you are intrinsically composing your frames and shots at the same time.
How you arrange your characters can say a lot about their relationships. Having one character standing and another one sitting can implicitly send us a message about the power dynamics between them, just like having several characters sitting at the same table tells us the scene is one in which they are on equal ground.
Similarly, the action itself and how it develops during the scene can be strategically staged in a way that drives the attention of the viewers to focal points that you want to highlight. Visual composition of action and subjects can be used to draw parallels between elements in the film, convey symbolism, and adding more subtext components to your scenes and sequences, but it all begins with blocking.