Directing – The Fine Arts of Blocking and Composition

Directing – The Fine Arts of Blocking and Composition

Fallen Angels – c.1995 – dir. Wong Kar-Wai Guardians of the Galaxy – c. 2014 – dir. James Gunn Super 8 – c. 2011 – dir. JJ Abrams Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – c. 2011
– dir Brad Bird Close Encounters of the Third Kind – c. 1977
– dir. Steven Spielberg In The Mood For Love – c. 2000 – dir. Wong
Kar-Wai Unforgiven – c. 1992 – dir. Clint Eastwood High and Low – c. 1960 – dir. Akira Kurosawa The Iron Giant – c. 1999 – dir. Brad Bird Taken 2 – c. 2012 – dir A Dog that just
licked a Lime (Olivier Megaton) Jaws – c. 1975 – dir. Steven Spielberg Super 8 – c. 2011 – dir. JJ Abrams Guardians of the Galaxy – c. 2014 – dir. James Gunn Unforgiven – c. 1992 – dir. Clint Eastwood The Bourne Ultimatum – c. 2007 – dir. Paul Greengrass Snowpiercer – c. 2013 – dir. Bong Joon-ho Haywire – c. 2011 – dir. Steven Soderbergh 13 Assassins – c. 2010 – dir. Takashi Miike Taken 2 – c. 2012 – dir. Sonic The Hedgehog on Meth (Olivier Megaton) Citizen Kane – c. 3000 AD – dir. Muhammed Close Encounters of the Third Kind – c. 1975 – dir. Steven Spielberg Jaws – c. 1975 – dir. Steven Spielberg Gone Girl – c. 2014 – dir. David Fincher Cure – c. 1997 – dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa High and Low – c. 1960 – dir. Akira Kurosawa In The Mood For Love – c. 2000 – dir. Wong Kar-Wai Snowpiercer – c. 2014 – dir. Bong Joon-ho Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – c. 2011 – dir. Tomas Alfredson In The Mood For Love – c. 2000 – dir. Wong Kar-Wai Snowpiercer – c. 2014 – dir. Bong Joon-ho Cure – c. 1997 – dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – c. 2011 – dir. Tomas Alfredson In The Mood For Love – c. 2000 – dir. Wong Kar-Wai Jaws – c. 1975 – dir. Steven Spielberg 13 Assassins – c. 2010 – dir. Takashi Miike Gone Girl – c. 2014 – dir. David Fincher Animal Kingdom – c. 2010 – dir. David Michod Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – c. 2011 – dir. Tomas Alfredson

100 thoughts on “Directing – The Fine Arts of Blocking and Composition

  1. This is brilliant! Are you going to do more of these? They're so good, you really explained what I have been questioning about some films and some of my own but couldn't quite understand where it was going wrong.

  2. Hi Dan…. can't thank you enough for this wonderful video with such great analysis… However, I would just like to point out something… that all of you amazing guys, be it you or Tony Zhou or Now you see it or many others, there is so much eagerness to talk about films like Jaws, Snowpiercer, Hitcock's movies, Goodfellas, Blade runner, Godfather, Matrix, Bong Joon Ho, Takashi Miike, and apart from this brand of films, just Breathless (deconstructed film language), Kurosawa (who also excelled in technique), and In the mood for love (talk of cinematography, and it can't be ignored) and sometimes Tarkovsky (the polar end of high-brow films)…

    and then, you guys dissect the technique as to how it aids the kind of physical factors like storytelling or pace or directing attention or getting more thrill or how to make movie scarier. But great cinema, as I see it, is not just about engagement but also involvement… as to how a director evokes not only attention but emotion….. Directors like Bergman, Satyajit Ray, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Majid Majidi, Fellini, Wenders, Herzog, Kim ki Duk, Bresson, Michael Haneke or even American directors like Cassavetes or Jarmusch, and their films are not just rare topics but also rarely referenced in most of the film form analysis videos…..

    like in this video, I find it strange that there is no mention of Sven Nykvist, and the powerful compositions in Persona, or when the kids are playing hide and seek in Pather Panchali, the wonderful blocking of that scene, or the last staircase scene of Cassavetes' Faces or the first scene in Werckmeister Harmoniak…. why some films send a chill down the spine, others make your eyes wet, while some get you melancholic for several hours or days after watching the film… what is it in the characterization of a character that makes him apple of the eye of the masses….

    I wouldn't give this advice to someone like Cinefix (hope they aren't listening), because they and their lists are totally steeped in the factory studio system of Hollywood… but guys like you, Tony Zhou, Nerdwriter, Channel Criswell are a real hope, and great teachers for aspiring film-makers like me…. love and regards, Vijeta

  3. its always bothered me when I see a cut to a closeup of a random "character" in a film just to see their reaction!

  4. its always bothered me when I see a cut to a closeup of a random "character" in a film just to see their reaction!

  5. At least that cinema essay channel has got humor
    love the voice different from the clichy guru brittany accent of other essay channel

  6. Awesome video, well done! Just one question, it says "Animal Kingdom" is the last movie before Iron Giant at the end, but what about the clip with the people in what looks like period clothing, perhaps from WWII? I don't think this is from Animal Kingdom and I can't figure out what it is from the list. Can you name the movie? Did I miss it on the list? Thanks!!

  7. a good driver drives slow and obeys the speed limit because they have confidence behind the wheeel….the same is true with filmmaking

  8. I'm going to have to flat out disagree with you on the scenes from SnowPiercer. The first fight scene is as choppy and hectic as it is to emphasis the panic and desperation of the risk being undertaken. While the second scene is much more tense and fearful. If that first fight scene were filmed in the style of the second, the feeling would be all wrong and the scene would project the proper feeling.

  9. Blocking is not about camera at all. It's about the way actors move through a set. Plays have blocking. Composition is about framing the camera. Your explanations are slightly off.

  10. very nice video , many thanks.

    i have to ask … were you practicing accents during it ? i hear a sway between southern english and american .

  11. Can't I just take an NZT pill and learn directing in like two seconds? I have a lot to learn if I'm going to direct my movie….

  12. 3:58 'The camera motivates the action, rather than the action motivating the camera…which is why it looks fake'- Brilliantly put!

  13. Stephen Spielberg. Sadly underrated as one of the greatest Hollywood directors, probably because his shots are so seamless that they don't draw attention to his masterful creativity.

  14. Excellent video Dan Fox! I subscribed. Hopefully more independent film makers see this video. Getting sick of all these shot reverse shot formula movies.

  15. I totally get your point when talking about the crane going up scene
    But how about breaking bad? frequently the series uses a lot of shots just to show actions from amazing angles

  16. I disagree with you on the Guardians of the Galaxy vs The Unforgiven, as we see the reaction to the weapon first and THEN the weapon in Guardians, and it's the other way around in The Unforgiven. It gives us the feeling that that arrow is really dangerous, due to their reaction, whilst it is common knowledge that a gun is dangerous, and we see the reaction and "backing away" after we see the gun. To me, at least, the first tells more of a story.

  17. hey, @dan fox, including jackie chan as a director would have been a great choice too. the transition in his frames is very smooth, with no continuous, haphazard shifts that take away from all that the scene can be

  18. What a lovely video! Especially loved your advice at the very end. Thanks for this, Dan – It's one of the best filmmaking "how-to's" out there 🤘

  19. This video just basically told me to give up on my dream to become a director; I didn't understand anything. Think I'll watch it again, smh.

  20. Interestingly I found the fight scenes in haywire extremely bad. I remember that I even had to laugh because it felt so fake at times.

  21. In potential defense of James Gunn, he might've made those shots static and presentational as a throwback to old television serials… There's something fun about them being extra presentational and artificial somehow, to me anyway. It also lets him create a quick pace across a big ensemble… That said, I haven't seen the first one since the theater, so I definitely leave some room for being wrong here.

  22. 9:53
    This is the only video I've watched of yours but I'm sure this is the best 15 seconds you've ever created. LMAO

  23. Amazing video. I think this video should be shown at film school when teachers are trying to teach their student how to direct a movie. Nice Man! Keep up the good work.

  24. JJ is mechanics over art. I love watching Jaws! The one block that didnt work howwver, was when the boat was heading to sea and the camera was in the jaw window.

  25. Glad I came across this video!!! Terrific work. I think you'd get more views with a better title. Your title is a little staid and "old school professor" feeling vs. the actual exciting and eye-opening content you provided.

  26. That video is awesome for my learning experience! Thank you for showing me completely new aspects to look at when watching movies! Great editing and explaining.

  27. Great video! May I just add, for those who want to study blocking, study Akira Kurosawa's films. There is a reason why Coppola, Scorcese and Speilberg considers him a master. Seven Samurai probably has some of the best if not the best blocking of action scenes in movie history. In fact all of the lessons here In this video can be seen in Seven Samurai. When watching Seven Samurai, aside from blocking for action/fight scenes observe the relationship and interpersonal dynamics played out by blocking and composition. Look at how he seemlessly introduces new characters seemlessly using more than one technique (several in fact) shown in this video.
    Please keep making more videos. Hope to watch more soon.

  28. Before you make any more videos on movies, may be you should watch a few on audio composition! Get a better microphone too. I can't understand half if what you're saying. It sounds like you forgot to finish chewing that last piece if steak you are eating. I had to re watch some parts 3 Times to fully understand what the hell you are saying!!!

  29. I think it has something to do with this myth that contemporary audience has a shorter attention span. It dictates that if your shot doesn’t move in 2 seconds, you lose your audience. I don’t know how it started (TV ratings and focus groups are my best guesses), but it evidently grows up to cover the whole Hollywood.
    Pointless movements(both of and in camera) and cuts must have something to do with box office, this could explain JJ Abrams’ universal appearance.
    My bigger beef is with vlogs. Since not much is really happening, pointless movements and cuts have become the norm in these videos, and sometimes camera movement itself becomes the subject. If this “trend” continues to grow, that myth might turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, and all we can watch in theaters(and on tv and internet, of course) will be 2-hour long vine compilations.

  30. I overall love this video and has certainly taught me alot. One little thing is, with the Guardians of the Galaxy I think that static, head-on approach was exactly what he was going for. Every other cut was in one way or another cut perpendicular to the previous angle. And I think that was just emphasized with the lack of background music and simplicity. The second the tenstion is released and Starlord tells Rocket that everything is okay, the camera is then released from its previous uniform format and they shoot it hand-held…
    I don't know alot about blocking and directing, i am watching this video to learn. But I think with that scene it was made like that one purpose.
    But please tell why I am wrong, if I am.

  31. As foreign as this must sound to some of you, I find myself nearly completely blind to most of this – which is both an interesting and a little frustrating feeling, since I'm used to "getting it" more often than not when I have a subject explained to me and illustrated with examples.

    Eg. 3:45. (I have not seen the movie this is from.)

    I genuinely don't see what is wrong with it? It seems the character is expecting the dogs to have him/his location as the target for their frantic run. I can't really tell if he expect them to be aggressive (needing him to stand firm) or happily excited to see him, so I suppose that part could have been made more clear – but that has little to do with the camera movement. In either case, he clearly shows surprise that they just ignore and sprint past him => today (unusually) there are clearly more important things happening, and happening in the direction that the dogs are running (right?). He is then left in the dust and scratching his head and thinking "what the £$%¤# was all of that about?!?".

    My point is though, that the man's movement feels quite natural. He seems confused. He doesn't know what to make of those dogs, what to do about it (they're just dogs, so they can be ignored, right… or should he investigate just in case?) or where to move – so he moves more or less randomly. You could even argue that the very fact that he moves nowhere and ends up at the very same spot he started underscores this.

    OK, so that is the dude. The real complaint was about the camera movement. And here I have to admit that I don't get is how the camera movement detracts from the scene. The camera movement did not prevent me from trying to interpret what was going on (except for his initial expectation upon hearing the dogs) and I don't see what other camera movement should have been chosen or why that would be superior or add further layers to this. "Camera motivates action, rather than action motivating camera". I don't understand what that phrase means.

  32. Doesn't it take much longer on set to have the option not to cut…I'm sure many Directors do not have the luxury to rehearse a perfectly choreographed fight scene.

  33. I am film student learning how to direct I watch this video more than 50 times in deferent time everytime I watched I understood more,
    All I am trying to say you can’t test the knowledge that this video teaches you,
    I really appreciate the creator if this 4 years university knowledge in less than fifteen minutes
    I promise I will make shoutouts on big stage as I am your student,
    Thanks again

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