Staging is one of the most important choices in storytelling.
It's hard to remove yourself from the entertainment value of a movie or TV show and really study the way it's made. I find that with the movies I have seen the absolute most, this gets a little easier. One movie I go back to over and over again is Raiders of the Lost Ark because of its staging.
Every shot feels calculated, and every transition feels measured.
But there may not be a better way to study that movie than by examining the one Steven Soderbergh created when he re-edited the film in black and white. By taking away the dialogue and score, he makes you focus on the way the camera moves and the staging of every scene.
Why do this? I'll let Soderbergh explain:
"So I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot—whether short or long—held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? Sounds like fun, right? It actually is. To me. Oh, and I’ve removed all sound and color from the film, apart from a score designed to aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect. Wait, WHAT? HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? Well, I’m not saying I’m like, ALLOWED to do this, I’m just saying this is what I do when I try to learn about staging, and this filmmaker forgot more about staging by the time he made his first feature than I know to this day (for example, no matter how fast the cuts come, you always know exactly where you are—that’s high-level visual math shit)."
Watch the whole film here.
If that's not for you, watch this hour-long documentary on how it was done.
What do you think of Soderbergh's strategy?
Have you watched the black and white version of Indiana Jones?
Let us know in the comments!