Because of Mama

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Directing the Short Film: Creating/Finding Locations

    Locations must always be constructed, or "written." You don't write locations as you write the screenplay - except to say INTERIOR KITCHEN, or some other locating phrase. But you do "write" or construct location as you build your sets.

    In creating locations, you make endless decisions, each of them profoundly important. Locations "say" as much about your film's characters as their dialogues do. For example, in Because of Mama, we needed to create the boy's room so that it would communicate several things: who he is, what he likes, who his parents are, and so on. We accomplished this, in part, by the photographs of his parents that hang on his wall: Mama's photograph presents a controlled, almost iconic face. Papa's photograph reveals a beaming man playing the sport he loves. We also "place" the boy at a very specific point in his development via the lion pillow on his bed. He's still a kid, not yet an adolescent - and this childish vulnerability is what makes us ache for him as the story unfolds.

    Remember: locations must always have depth - foregrounds, mid-grounds, and backgrounds. Construct your locations so that you've given the audience things to look for, at different levels. You might compare constructing a good location to writing a good sentence: you place things in the appropriate places, for emphasis. For instance, when you viewBecause of Mama, you'll see all the things that the director makes sure that you see - for example, the train set in the boy's room, or the hockey posters on the wall. But see if you notice the statue of Beethoven. It's there, but positioned in a place of lesser importance. You might notice it if you were viewing the film on the big screen, but you might even miss it there. You're attention is directed (or "written") elsewhere.



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