Looking at movies

‘Movies have evolved into a complex form of artistic representation and communication’ (Barsam R., 2014: pg 2) On below, I have looked at how the structure of a film forms and my understanding about movies.

There are five principles of techniques that continue to use in making films.

  1. Movies can operate time and space where other art cannot because the way movies can record ‘real time’  and sounds.
  2. Lighting creates different mood and textures which gives different styles and present emotions. The word ‘photography’ means “writing with light”.  
  3. Movies offers an illusion of movement. The word ‘movies’ is a shortened phrase of moving pictures which means capturing movements. An illusion cause when we see the movements on the screen.It is caused by two interacting optical and perceptual phenomena. Persistence of vision and the phi phenomenon. Persistence of vision is the process when the human brain keep an image for a second longer than the eye records it. The phi phenomenon is the illusion of movement which is a series of movements. 
  4. Movies can describe words convincingly. During 1895 to 1905, the French filmmaker Auguste, Louis Lumiere and Georges Melies established two ways that the cinema would go for: the Lumieres realsim – it is about real points of view and present things as what they are in real lives while Melies’s fantasy- it is about the abstract or fantastic.
  5. Movies are expensive to create ( time is money) and it requires highly collaborative process. A good script and the director’s inspiration, ideas and supervision is the key of the success for a movie. 

Pre-production – The term pre-production includes planning and preparation which is very important in film industry. For instance before making a movie, pre-production allows the directors to plan the scenes which will help to reduce time and also by doing enough research, they can plan what they want to do and what they want to change within the scenes. 

Looking at different types of movies:

Nonfiction films

There are four styles of nonfiction films and they are factual, instructional, documentary and propaganda films. The four styles can collaborate with each other to create other hybrid forms. A nonfiction film is about real incidents, people and places. 

  • Factual films – it is usually used to present people or locations or processes in uncomplicated ways and is meant to entertain the audiences 
  • Instructional films – it is used to educate viewers about common interests 
  • Documentary films
  • Propaganda films – it is used to spread out ideas

Narrative films/ Fiction films

“Fiction” means the stories the films tell or convey to the audiences. It presents the characters, locations and events. The stories may be imaginary or based on true events. It can also be either realistic or unrealistic or even both. The stories are based on script, written by the screenwriter, staged for the camera and starred by actors.

What is Form in movies?

  • It is the order of parts of a film
  • the techniques that the filmmakers used to create a film. For instance: Sound and pictures
  • The idea that the film  convey which links to genre
  • the way the film allows the audiences to respond, understand and translate the film in specific ways. 

When designing and making a narrrative film, we need to consider:

  • Setting- Where are you filming? What period of time will the film take place? etc. It is not only about telling the audience the date, city or country that the film is set, but setting also provides the characters’ social, educational, and cultural backgrounds which involves what they eat, drink, wear or behavior. 
  • Storytelling/ plot
  • Suspense and Surprise – this helps to make the film more interesting and add tension to the film which can draw the audiences attention.
  • Lighting – There are two source of light and they are natural (using daylight) and artificial (using focusable spot and floodlights. They can produce two basic qualities of light: hard which creates harsh, well-defined shadows and soft which creates diffusion. Also, we need to think about quality and directions when consider lighting.
  • Makeup and hairstyle – Styling, makeup and hair are one of the most important things to consider as it reflects the character’s personal aspects.
  • Costume – the setting of the film usually reflects on the design of the costumes as it helps to tell the audience what period the character is in, status in society and enhance the character’s traits.
  • Editing – Adding effects? Think about how to combine the scenes together. Cuttong on action is a common editing technique which is designed for connecting one shot to another shot. Take from example: A film editor will often finish the first shot in the middle of a continuing action and then start the other shot continuing with the same action at some point further than the first take. This editing technique makes the action move continuously. 
  • Duration, Speed and length of the shot, how long will the scene takes? how long is the film?
  • Music- Think about the mood, contemporary or historical, etc.
  • Stage production- Staging and planning each scene includes placing the characters (where are they positioning within the scene? Their actions and movements?, etc), objects and decorations, etc.  Staging also involves camera angle and height which links to the scale of the frame you want to capture in a scene.  Filmmakers define two aspects of composition and they are framing (what we see on the screen) and Kinesis (what moves on the screen). Framing from a low angle shot shows power as the audience must “look up to” the scene. Close-up shot shows a personal and emotions. A wide frame shot shows loneliness. Point of viewincludes physical point of view and mental point of view. Physical point of view means the angle or the place from where the camera or character or a narrator watch a scene or an incident. Mental point of view means the way the character or narrator see and hear in a scene and reflecting or narrated on an opinion which might be remembering an event or a dream. Lighting is also required when planning stage production.

Casting characters- Flat characters means the characters which presents one or a few traits in a film. Their intention and actions are predictable while round characters means the characters which show several traits and are unpredictable and complex. Major and minor characters: The major characters play the most important part in a film. He or she makes the most things happen or something happen to them in a film. The minor characters are the supporting characters and they play less important role. They are used to help the plot move forward. Marginal characters have lack definition about them and they appear on a scene for a very short time.

Motifs in Films:

What is motif in films? From watching films in scene by scene, we can found the motifs easily as it is a repeated pattern, idea or images throughout the film. It also helps to point out the theme of the film or text. Motifs are in films and also in literature as well.

How can we identify motif in films? On below are the ways we can use to refer at: By identify the repeating pattern in the film, we can question ourselves why the director did that and where did they happens in the film? These help to make us understand what the message and theme the film want to give to the audiences.

Motifs can come in different ways:

  • Repeated colors
  • Repeated phrase that the character speaks
  • Repeated item shows within the film


  • Barsam, R.(2010(. Looking At Movies: An Introduction To Film. Third Edition. W.W Norton & Company, Inc. 

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