As a Hollywood cinematographer, I always have to be on my toes and ready for whatever is going to be thrown at me. At times, it isn’t easy; at times, you have to make it up as you go, but the one thing that has never changed for me over the course of 25 years+ on set is that blocking is an absolute necessity in the puzzle that is filmmaking. Without blocking, we’d be flying blind into the eye of the storm.
Today, I’m going to deconstruct my 3rd feature film, Crazy/Beautiful (2001) directed by John Stockwell. This movie has a special place in my heart, due to John and I sinking as much detail, character emotion, and “blocking” into the film as possible. It essentially was a masterclass and a first-hand look at how important it is to break down a character’s perspective through action in the scene. Since graduating to do multiple features, TV series, commercials, and short films… I’ve always kept in mind what we did on this project!
Blocking a scene is when the director, director of photography, and the script supervisor get together 1-on-1 with the talent to break the scene down into beats. Essentially, we are taking the written action in the script and bringing it to life on location, figuring out shots, and vetting any problem spots along the way. It’s important for this to happen because it creates a foundation for creativity, and a direction in which to guide the rest of the crew.
Some directors don’t like to block the scene and let the actors solve the puzzle themselves, which can work at times! For me, I’ve always found blocking to be beneficial for everyone across the board. It helps you figure out camera placement, light placement, what lens will best emote the scene, where we might run into trouble, and the list goes on!
Originally, in this Crazy/Beautiful scene, we had Nicole Oakley standing at her locker packing her belongings. In the moment, Carlos Nuñez would enter through the doorway and approach her, meeting half way in front of the table. After watching the first couple of blocking rehearsals, I turned to John Stockwell pitching the idea of her being on her knees and when Carlos comes in, all he would see would be a head over the top of the table. To me, this made her character feel more damaged and vulnerable to the world around her. It created an emotional perspective for Carlos as we establish him surveying the location at first glance. After pitching that, John looked to me said, “I LOVE IT!” and the rest is history… you’ll have to read inside the Inner Circle.
This lesson from Shane’s Inner Circle contains over 21 minutes of extensive video content and analysis.