One of the first things I notice when someone sends me their film is composition and how much time they have spent thinking about how to tell their story visually. Now, here’s the really good news, especially for no budget filmmakers. Good composition costs as much as bad composition. The only cost per se is time, patience and creativity. It’s easy to arrive on set or do storyboards and just say…meh, close enough. But to be a truly effective filmmaker you need to understood that composition isn’t just a part of the storytelling, it is THE most important part of the storytelling process. Films are a visual medium. Each frame should be looked upon as a photograph that tells us something significant about what’s going on. If you took a single frame from a composition would the audience have a general idea of what was going on. Would they understand the relationship between characters? Would they get a feel for their emotional state in that moment.
Let’s be honest…today we really don’t have any excuse for creating amazing composition. Have you seen the camera’s they were working with back in the day? Do you have any concept how hard it was to do an overhead shot or a tracking shot vs. now with our little micro cameras that shoot a bazillion K? Honestly, when someone sends me a film they shot on their iphone and they haven’t spent 2 seconds thinking about what’s in their frame, I want to punch the screen. Put your camera on a tripod. Make the angle mean something! Every camera movement should tell you something about the story.
To get a grasp on composition, enjoy this brilliant essay on Film Composition from Lewis at Channel Criswell.