Setting: The Storytelling Potential of Film's (Often) Underappreciated Star Character

Choosing your settings is just as important as choosing your characters. In fact, settings are characters.

What can a setting contribute to the narrative? Well, pretty much everything that a character can, including conveying a tone, emotion, or idea. This video essay by Now You See It explores the huge role settings have played in some of cinema's greatest stories, like FargoUp, and The Lion King to show us how important a setting in a film really is.

As indie filmmakers, we may not have the money or clout needed to gain access to many locations in which we wish to set our films. Dressing a set can get pretty spendy, as well. As a result, our decision-making process defaults to choosing whatever's available to us rather than what would serve our story better. 

But as the video demonstrates, so much potential exists in a location or the way a set is dressed. Settings can act as an extension of your character, helping to communicate their emotional state or inner thoughts. Or it could even be a character all on its own, setting a tone and atmosphere for the entire film, like Pride Rock in The Lion King, or the snow-laden terrain in Fargo.

Settings, like everything else that shows up on screen, can communicate to your audience. Make sure that you don't let its storytelling potential go to waste.     

Your Comment



October 13, 2015 at 8:13AM


Three films that are defined by the setting: Se7en: Once you accept the dystopian hellhole they live in, any horror is possible. Lawrence of Arabia: the power and magnificence of the setting underscores the protagonists personal identity crisis. The Room: you spend the whole film wondering what room they are referring to.

October 13, 2015 at 6:52PM

Sean Voysey
Creative Director

Equally obvious and pompous at the same time.. And the vietnam comment bahahahah

October 17, 2015 at 12:05AM, Edited October 17, 12:05AM