Mr/Dr Soderbergh @ 2014-09-22

(Note: This posting is for educational purposes only.)

I’m assuming the phrase “staging” came out of the theatre
world, but it’s equally at home (and useful) in the movie world, since the term
(roughly defined) refers to how all the various elements of a given scene or piece
are aligned, arranged, and coordinated. In movies the role of editing adds
something unique: the opportunity to extend and/or expand a visual (or
narrative) idea to the limits of one’s imagination—a crazy idea that works today
is tomorrow’s normal.

I value the ability to stage something well because when
it’s done well its pleasures are huge, and most people don’t do it well, which
indicates it must not be easy to master (it’s frightening how many
opportunities there are to do something wrong in a sequence or a group of
scenes. Minefields EVERYWHERE. Fincher said it: there’s potentially a hundred
different ways to shoot something but at the end of the day there’s really only
two, and one of them is wrong). Of course understanding story, character, and
performance are crucial to directing well, but I operate under the theory a
movie should work with the sound off, and under that theory, staging becomes
paramount (the adjective, not the studio. although their logo DOES appear on
the front of this…).

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).

At some point you will say to yourself or someone THIS LOOKS
AMAZING IN BLACK AND WHITE and it’s because Douglas Slocombe shot THE LAVENDER
HILL MOB and the THE SERVANT and his stark, high-contrast lighting style was
eye-popping regardless of medium.


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