The 5 Steps of the Professionals in the Professional Staging of Film Scenes

actor feature video
Jennifer Lawrence in front of Tom Stem ASC AFC's camera while shooting "The Hunger Games" | © Photo: British Cinematographer

You can also tell a professional video production by how they work on the film set. Movie scenes are a good example of this. Because their implementation always follows the same procedural principle in 5 steps. By shooting film scenes, you can tell the level of professionalism of the makers.

Each film and video consists of a series of scenes. These film scenes in turn comprise a series of settings. If you were to compare the construction of movies to a novel, the acts are the chapters, the scenes shot are the sentences, and the settings are the words.

You need to know that:

  • There is a tried and tested procedure for shooting film scenes. This can be divided into five steps.
  • These 5 phases of staging serve as much for efficiency as for quality assurance in the realization of a video.
  • The five parts of staging a scene in film are: Establishing the positions, setting up the technique, running rehearsals, corrections and finally the shoot.

How to shoot a professional film scene

For the shooting of a film scene, a five-step process has become established in film and video production among true professionals. The basis for this is always the storyboard or shot list that the director has prepared with a scene analysis.

With the exception of documentaries, this approach has proven successful for almost all genres: from shooting an image film to commercials and online videos to feature films.

1 Determining the positions of the performers

Normally, a walk-through of the location has already taken place before filming begins. Nevertheless, it is customary in film to go through the positions of the people in front of the camera directly on location on the day of the shoot for a scene together with all those involved before shooting begins. Actors have not yet been in make-up and are not yet wearing costumes.

In this step, prior to the shooting of a film scene, it is primarily a matter of determining movement sequences for the respective scene. The director often sketches these out in advance with a storyboard and during the first visit to the location. Now the task is to adapt theory to reality.

On the one hand, the joint determination of the positions for a film scene helps the actors during filming. On the other hand, it is also an essential prerequisite for setting up lighting, camera rails and other equipment.

When shooting film scenes, the focus is on the starting and ending positions for each individual actor. On this basis, the cameraman determines the focal lengths, camera perspective and settings. These elements are at the same time the basis for the lighting and for the set, which thus knows which prop has to be moved into the picture.

2 Structure of the technology

Once the positions are clear to all participants, the actors disappear into the mask. While they are being made up and putting on their costumes, the technical equipment is being set up on the set.

Depending on the task, the technical set-up work prior to shooting film scenes includes camera tracks with dolly for camera movements, the set-up of the film light and possibly also of auxiliary equipment for special effects. Of course, the sound and the connection of video monitors are also included.

A key position here is the 1st assistant director. That’s why, because together with the cameraman, she determines the time needed for the set-up. In a professional film production, these time slots are already fixed in advance in the daily schedule. The task now is to comply with them – or to adapt them.

In the case of feature films, this second step in the filming of scenes often involves a so-called rehearsal. This means nothing more than checking the camera position and lighting with the pre-recorded position of an actor. So that the actor does not have to be used for this, another person of identical height (called a stand-in in English) stands at the respective location. This allows the cameraman to check light and movement.

3 Rehearsals of the film scene with actors

Once the camera is in position, the lighting is perfect and the actors are ready, the scene is rehearsed. In this phase, the director and the actors get the opportunity to discuss final details of the role together.

These adjustments are not so much about the nature of the play and the emotional interpretation of a character in the film (because these issues are clarified well in advance of filming during readings), but rather how the play is adapted to the particular premises.

Such rehearsals are enormously important when shooting film scenes when working with amateur actors or when shooting management videos and video interviews.

4 Final corrections immediately before shooting

It is not unusual that as a result of the rehearsals either the movements of the actors or the position of the camera are optimized again. Usually this also means adjusting the position of the film light.

Corrections after rehearsal are not an indication of inadequate preparation when shooting a film scene. Especially when a location cannot be visited – or only shortly before the shoot – many important aspects of the production can only be decided on the day of the shoot itself.

At the same time, many small individual parts can be perfected again in this fourth preparation phase. This is because many aspects, such as rhythm and timing, can no longer be corrected later in the editing room, or only with great effort and high cost consequences.

5 Shooting a film scene

When actually staging a film scene in front of a running camera, the director must no longer focus on the film technique, the camera or thinking in terms of camera angles and camera settings.

Because now it’s all about the performance of the people in front of the camera:

  • Are the emotions right?
  • Does the game seem authentic, real?
  • Does the interpretation fit the plot and state of mind of the film character?
  • Is subtext palpable?

These are all things the director will want and need to focus on. This is only possible thanks to the previous four steps for shooting a movie scene. To a layperson, they may seem complicated or unnecessary. In fact, they free up the direction for what really matters: getting the people in front of the camera to perform at their best.

This article was automatically translated into English using AI. If you would like to help us improve the quality, we would be happy to hear from you.

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