Film Blocking and Composition
If you have tried your hand at directing, you have most likely found yourself in the same predicament that filmmakers have been facing since the dawn of cinema. Where do I put the camera and how will my actors move through the scene? Although it is integral to a director’s skillset to tell a story, I am always amazed at how few filmmakers truly understand great blocking. Luckily, we can do what we always do in filmmaking when we want to learn. Watch the masters.
I first started to truly understand blocking watching the films of Steven Spielberg. In fact, one of the greatest pieces of blocking and composition advice came directly from Spielberg in an interview. I’m paraphrasing, but he said the best way to learn how to move the camera and actors is by watching films with the volume all the way down. I can say from personal experience, this has become one of my favorite exercises.
Spielberg of course was inspired by the generation that came before him. Most notably Akira Kurosawa and Orson Wells. But instead of going on and on about blocking, I recently came across a video from Dan Fox that said everything that I’m trying to say here in a wonderfully creative video essay entitled Directing – The Fine Arts of Blocking and Composition.
There are a number of other great videos on blocking, best among them is Film Skills: How to Shoot a Scene Part 1 – Blocking.
Tony Zhou’s “The Spielberg Oner” video is a great example of blocking in Spielberg films.
As long as we’re having a Spielberg love fest, here’s another great video about Spielberg’s Technique.
And here is a rare video of Spielberg actually blocking a scene in Jurassic Park.
Blocking on Citizen Kane.
Drawing out the blocking of a scene.
The blocking of Michelangelo Antonioni.