Here Release Dates:
April 25, 2005
Review Date: November
By: Kari Ann Morgan
recently reviewed a great debut film from a new microcinema
director (you can read my review of her film, Ascension,
The story and shooting style were fairly direct and straightforward;
but--as this movie showed--just because the script didn't
call for Michael Bay-style camera moves, it didn't mean
that the shots had to be boring! A lot of beginning filmmakers
(and even some that have more experience) can feel that
they have to have lots of swooping crane or dramatic steadicam
shots in order to have a great-looking movie. This isn't
true. In reality, if you don't know how to effectively
use the camera in the first place (visually speaking,
not technically), you have no business putting it on a
crane or steadicam; these devices cannot fix a visually
uninteresting or inappropriate shot.
Cinematic Storytelling. Using some of the most
iconic and well-known films as examples, Jennifer Van
Sijll explains how to use visual composition, lenses,
editing, sound effects, transitions, camera position,
and much more to give emphasis and convey information
and emotion in your movie.
One of (the many) cool things about this book is that you
don't have to have had any prior experience working with
cameras to be able to understand the material. If you can
read English and can look at the picture examples given
(still photos from various films), then you can understand
the concepts conveyed in the book.
and techniques (such as montages, intercutting, visual
foreshadowing, etc.) are defined and clarified; even very
subtle techniques that are almost unnoticeable in movies
are pointed out and their effect explained. (For example,
in describing the X-axis in screen direction, Van Sijll
Westerners we read left-to-right. If you rented fifty
studio-made movies, there's a good chance that the 'good
guy' will enter screen left every time. When the 'good
guy' moves left-to-right, our eyes move comfortably. Subconsciously,
we begin to make positive inferences. Conversely, the
antagonist usually enters from the right. Since our eyes
aren't used to moving from right to left, the antagonist's
entrance makes us uncomfortable. The screenwriter exploits
this by transferring our learned discomfort to the characters"
author then goes on to show stills and a script excerpt
from Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train to illustrate the
effect of this principle.
included in this book
range from The Graduate...
effects shots in the Fritz Lang
The book covers a tremendous amount of information, starting
with the conventions of stationary camera techniques and
progressing through editing, sound, lenses, camera movement
and positioning, lighting, and finally, environment (location,
wardrobe, props, etc.). However, each topic has still photos
of at least one movie that exemplifies that certain technique,
as well as an explanation of its dramatic value. This latter
part is essential, because it's pointless to just talk about
certain camera shots, effects, movements, etc. if you don't
explain why they are important or what they are effective
for. Additionally, the techniques are explained in the context
of the movie photos, thus illustrating their effect.
side note: Jennifer Van Sijll draws from both old and
new movies as examples. From Fritz Lang's 1927 milestone
Metropolis, to Citizen Kane, Psycho, Pulp Fiction, The Piano,
and Requiem for a Dream, all of the films she picks are
excellent for viewing. You might want to add the "example
movies" in this book to your Netflix or Blockbuster
rental list. (Not like it's probably already long enough
as it is!]
I found that it was very easy to maintain interest in this
book. Truth be told, I was rather skeptical at first when
I was informed that I'd be reviewing a book entitled Cinematic
Storytelling; I was expecting a textbook-sized tome
with simple drawings and technical words. Not so. The format
is very easy-to-follow; each chapter has approximately between
4-10 sections, with each section usually covered in one
full page. This makes for quick reading and easy comprehension.
There are no big, technical-geeky words to wade through,
and the explanations and summaries are brief, but detailed
This book is definitely a must-have investment
for a filmmaker; whether you are just starting your first
short or are working on your tenth full-length feature,
this is a book you'll want to have within reach while planning
your shot sheets and/or storyboards. And you'll probably
find yourself coming back to it again and again with each
new project you do.
from the all time
classic, Citizen Kane...
good examples of
shot layout and lighting.
While the listed retail price this book being $25, it is
worth far more for the information and ideas it provides.
If you've never taken any kind of cinematic layout class
(and even if you have!) this book is well worth the price.
This book helps you to make the maximum impact with your
main artistic tool: the camera itself. Just like writers
understand the impact of their words, and painters understand
how colors are used on their canvas, so must the filmmaker
understand and know how to use the camera without relying
solely on special effects and equipment.
This book belongs on the shelf of anyone interested or involved
in filmmaking, storyboarding, camerawork, cinematography,
producing, and/or directing. Too many filmmakers--both microcinema
and "big Hollywood"--don't fully understand the purposes
and implications of various shots; this book will help you
make the best use of your time, equipment, story, planning,