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FILMMAKER’S TOOL KIT

GLOSSARY OF FILM TERMS
STORYBOARD GLOSSARY OF COMMON FILM SHOTS
GUIDE TO SCRIPT FORMATTING
GUIDE TO 3-PONT LIGHTING
BLANK STORYBOARDS
PRODUCTION CALL SHEET
PUBLISH AND CONNECT
GLOSSARY OF FILM TERMS

Introduction

A consideration of the many disciplines involved in film production gives the motion
picture a much larger and more complex dimension. No longer can a film adaptation of
a novel or other literary work be considered a mere visual record when so much talent is
involved in such a creative effort. Just as the various tasks in film production can be
broken down and analyzed individually, so can the individual elements of the film.
Filmmaking, like any other art form, has its own language and vocabulary. Once that
language is mastered, films can be understood at a new level.
Camera angle:
The position of the camera in relation to the subject it shows: above it,
looking down (a high angle); on the same level (a straight-on angle); looking up (a low
angle).

Close-up:

A framing in which the scale of the object shown is relatively large. Most
commonly, a person, head is seen from the neck up, or an object fills most of the
screen to emphasize its importance.

Crane shot:

A shot accomplished by having the camera above the ground and moving
through the air in any direction.

Crosscutting:

Editing that alternates shots of two or more lines of action occurring in
different places, usually simultaneously. Crosscutting is often used during a key
dramatic sequence to increase tension.

Deep Focus:

A use of the camera lens and lighting so that both close and distant
planes are shown in sharp focus. This technique allows the filmmaker to emphasize a
character or object that appears far away.

Depth of Field:

The area or field between the closest and farthest planes captured by
the camera, in which everything appears in sharp focus. A depth of field from five to 16
feet, for example, would mean that everything closer than five feet and farther than 16
feet would be out of focus.

Dissolve:

A transition between two shots during which the first image gradually
disappears while the second image gradually appears. For a moment, the two images
blend in superimposition

Establishing shot:

A shot that shows the relationship among important figures,
objects, characters and setting at a distance. From the establishing shot, the film then
cuts to more detailed shots (often called coverage) that bring the audience closer to the
characters.

Flashback:

An alteration in the story order in which the plot moves back in time to
show events that have taken place earlier than those already shown.

Focus:

When light, people, places and objects are captured on film showing sharp
outlines and distinct textures through manipulation of the camera lens. There are
different types of focus, used to achieve specific effects.

Frame:

The rectangular box that contains the image projected on the screen. This
perimeter is one of the filmmaker, most important tools. The frame is the window into
the world of a film. Within it, each shot is composed and the edges of the frame allow
the filmmaker to create a picture. Movies were first known as moving pictures, and this
description is still useful when considering the important role the frame plays as a
compositional device. Through the camera’s eye, the viewer is presented with images
that convey the story. Within the frame, the filmmaker creates several different types of
shots, which are generally characterized by the relationship between the size of the
elements in the frame to each other and to the frame itself.

Long shot:

A framing in which the scale of the object shown is not distant but relatively
small. A standing human figure, for example, generally appears nearly the height of the
screen.

Medium shot:

A shot that shows human figures from the waist up.
Pan (or panning shot):
A camera movement with the camera body turning to the
right or left. On the screen, it produces a mobile framing, which scans horizontally.
Panning shots can also emphasize movement.
Point of View (POV) shot:
A shot taken with the camera placed where the
character’s eyes would be to show what the character would actually see. This type of
shot is usually cut in before or after a shot of the character looking at whatever the POV
shot contains.

Wide angle:

The use of a wide-angle lens to create a shot that captures a wide range
of elements or objects on a single plane, while at the same time exaggerating the
distance between foreground and background planes.

G L O S S A RY O F F I L M T E R M S

Zoom:

A lens which allows the focal length—the distance between the camera and the
object being filmed—to change during a single shot. The camera can zoom in by going
closer to an object, or it can zoom out by pulling back from an object.

Producer:

The person or group responsible for managing the production from start to
finish. The producer develops the project from the initial idea, makes sure the script is
finalized, arranges the financing, hires the personnel to make the film and oversees its
distribution to theaters. The producer also coordinates the filmmaking process to ensure
that everyone involved in the project is working on schedule and on budget. Ironically,
the produce’s role is often invisible to the movie-going public, who tend to focus on
actors and directors. Yet, without the producer at the helm, films do not get made.

Director:

The individual primarily responsible for overseeing the shooting and
assembly of a film. He or she is most directly responsible for the picture’s final
appearance. The director is sometimes referred to as the author or auteur of a film
because of his or her essential involvement with its creation. While the director might be
compared to a novel’s author as a film’s primary visionary, he or she would not be able
to make the film without the help of numerous other artists and technicians. In fact, the
notion of the director as author is misleading because it assumes the director does
everything—just like an author writes an entire book—which is not the case. A director
works at the center of film production, but is inextricably linked with dozens of other
people to get the job done.

G L O S S A RY O F F I L M T E R M S

Behind the Camera

In order to understand film as an art form, it is important to consider the jobs of the
numerous individuals who work together to make the film a reality.

Producer:

The person or group responsible for managing the production from start to
finish. The producer develops the project from the initial idea, makes sure the script is
finalized, arranges the financing, hires the personnel to make the film and oversees its
distribution to theaters. The producer also coordinates the filmmaking process to ensure
that everyone involved in the project is working on schedule and on budget. Ironically,
the producer’s role is often invisible to the movie-going public, who tend to focus on
actors and directors. Yet, without the producer at the helm, films do not get made.

Director:

The individual primarily responsible for overseeing the shooting and
assembly of a film. He or she is most directly responsible for the picture’s final
appearance. The director is sometimes referred to as the author or auteur of a film
because of his or her essential involvement with its creation. While the director might be
compared to a novel’s author as a film’s primary visionary, he or she would not be able
to make the film without the help of numerous other artists and technicians. In fact, the
notion of the director as author is misleading because it assumes the director does
everything—just like an author writes an entire book—which is not the case. A director
works at the center of film production, but is inextricably linked with dozens of other
people to get the job done.

Screenwriter:

While the dialogue in a film may seem natural to the viewer, a writer
carefully crafts it. The screenwriter does far more than provide dialogue for the actors.
He or she also shapes the sequence of events in a film to ensure that one scene leads
logically to the next, with the story being told in a logical and interesting way. When
using a novel or play as a starting point, the screenwriter inevitably rearranges, adds or
eliminates scenes to make sure the final order or sequence of scenes makes sense
when presented on the screen. The screenwriter also includes descriptions of settings
and often suggests movements or gestures for the actors. Like the producer, the
screenwriter’s role is generally overlooked by the movie-going public, yet is essential to the completion of any film. If there is no script, there is no movie.

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