The Art of Blocking: How to Make Boring Conversations More Interesting

'The Neon Demon' (2016)

Good blocking can turn a boring convo into a dynamic and emotional scene.

Where should actors stand within the frame? Should they move around? If so, where and how? These are just a few questions directors and cinematographers ask themselves when figuring out how to block a scene, and though it seems pretty simple, it's anything but. In this video essay, the team over at StudioBinder digs into the art of blocking to explain how you can communicate with your audience through the power of placement. Check it out below:

At first glance, blocking a scene seems straightforward. You choose what kind of shot you want to capture, place your actors in the frame so they are 1.) seen, and 2.) looking good. Boom! You're done.

Not quite.

Experienced filmmakers know all too well how something seemingly inconsequential, like blocking, often speaks the loudest to audiences. So, how can you start speaking to your viewers through blocking? StudioBinder goes over three factors that play a huge role:

  • Space: The amount of space within a frame says a lot about what's going on during the scene, especially the space between two characters because it almost always represents emotional distance. So, the more space there is between two characters, the less intimate, friendly, and trusting they might feel toward each other. Putting less space between them is more intimate, aggressive, or opposing.
  • Shapes:  Circles, triangles, squares...emotional little buggers. Shapes often communicate certain ideas and emotions to audiences. For example, circles represent safety, feminity, and inclusivity, squares represent restrictions and rigidity, and triangles represent power and aggression.
  • Lines: As a visual storyteller, your job is to guide your viewers' eye to what you want them to see on screen. One way of doing that is by blocking your actors so they create lines (vertices) that lead them toward objects you want them to look at. Furthermore, these lines can also communicate other important information, including power struggles and other subcontextual ideas.

Which films do you think using blocking especially well? Let us know down in the comments.     

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1 Comment

12 ANGRY MEN, has fantastic blocking.

July 27, 2018 at 1:38AM, Edited July 27, 1:38AM

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Olu Yomi Ososanya
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