'Anatomy of a Scene' is a Treasure Trove of Director Narrated Scene Breakdowns

NY Times Series Anatomy of a Scene
Do you miss DVD commentaries? The New York times has been producing bite-sized commentaries with directors for years, and they're all available online.

Sometimes it's just better hearing a director speak about their work in their own words. Anatomy of a Scene is a series by NY Times senior movies editor Mekado Murphy and has over 70 clips with directors (they seem to release about 1 per week). The collection can be a little hit and miss, but it's a fun catalogue to explore. I've grabbed a few of the best (and relatively recent) segments for your viewing pleasure:

James White (2015) narrated by Josh Mond

Here Josh talks about finding the visual language for the film with his DP, when to use subjective camera, and reinforcing the fast pace of New York City. You'll hear about a long take they originally pulled off as a working master, but decided to cut up into pieces to serve the story better.

Carol (2015) narrated by Todd Haynes

Set design, set design, set design! Haynes takes us through the importance of strong set design and careful framing to highlight a character's inner state.

Grandma (2015) narrated by Paul Weitz

In this installment, director Paul Weitz speaks in-depth about the critical tonal shift that happens during a scene with Sam Elliott. This was my favorite scene in Grandma, partly because Sam Elliott is so good and partly for how Weitz has mapped out the emotional history of the characters in such detail.

The thing I like about this series is the sample pool — they've covered a huge cross-section of today's working filmmakers, from Lynn Shelton, to David O. Russell, and Richard Ayoade. Each clip runs 3-4 minutes and also comes with a short interview with the filmmaker. For me this series helps fill a certain void left by the death of the DVD player and is perfect for the attenuated attention spans of today. Are you still reading this? Start exploring now!     

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