Monday, March 17, 2014

TODAY'S NUGGET: Dirty Harry (1971) - How to Use Camera Angles Appropriately

[Quick Summary: A cop hunts a serial murderer who taunts the San Francisco police.]

When I get stuck, I read scripts that have stood the test of time.

I'd recommend today's script for anyone who has trouble describing locations and/or spatial distances.

One technique the writers used is frequent camera angles.

I know, I know, I KNOW.

We're "not supposed to use camera angles."

Why? Because:

- Writers can get sloppy and overuse them
- Writers are accused of "directing on the page."

However, I'd argue that they're used here (appropriately) for emphasis:

ex.  "CLOSE - HARRY [on roof of Bldg. #1]

as he looks up from dead girl to skyscraper overlooking area. [The shot highlights the closeness of the two buildings.]

ANOTHER ANGLE

as Harry crosses and looks up at Building #2 in b.g. [This action points out where the sniper could have gotten a clear shot.]

REVERSE ON HARRY

Makes up his mind, spins around and exits quickly from rooftop. [This reaction shot shows Harry makes quick decisions.]

EXT. BLDG. #2 STREET - DAY

We are HOLDING on Harry as he long-strides up the street toward us.  We SPIN with him as he passes and discover that we are near the base of Building #2. As Harry moves toward it, we PAN UPWARD."  [This solidifies the relationship between Buildings #1 & 2.]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED:  I must justify each use of a camera angle.

Dirty Harry (1971)
by H.J. Fink, R.M. Fink, and Dean Riesner


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