MMED 3850 Cinema History 1945 Present. Assignment One The Classical Hollywood Style

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1 MMED 3850 Cinema History 1945 Present Assignment One The Classical Hollywood Style Submitted to: David Clearwater Submitted by: Misha Wilkin Spring 2003

2 Table of Contents Classical Hollywood style... 3 History... 3 Narrative Structure... 3 Classical Continuity... 5 Conclusion... 7 Works Cited... 8 Filmography... 8 Appendix 1 Set Decoration... 9 Appendix 2 -- Props...10 Appendix 3 -- Costumes...11 Appendix Rule...12 Appendix 6 Shot/Reverse Shot

3 Classical Hollywood style History The Classical Hollywood style is a set of conventions used to achieve a cinematic style where the viewer needs to think very little to understand the plot of a film. This style originated in Hollywood between 1910 and 1920 when the consolidation of smaller movie making and distribution companies restructured the industry (Kolker 2002, 26). The movie making process resembled an assembly line enabling the studios to produce a finished product in less time trying to achieve up to two films completed per week (Kolker 2002, 27). The peak years of early studio production processes happened between the 1920 s and 1940 s (Kolker 2002, 28). The 1930 s are considered the Golden Age of film making. The idea was to divide the tasks up of developing a film. Divisions included a top down hierarchy approach starting from the top with the studio bosses who communicated with the financial officers in New York, who really controlled the movie studios. The studio head in Hollywood decided on the actors, the script that would be used and delivered this information to the producers. The producers decided on a director, writers, and the crew who would be involved in the filming of the movie. This structure enabled the studios to film movies in less time adhering to a specific plan of production. The result of this was fewer mistakes and less time and costs exhausted on the film. Most shooting was done in the studio using techniques like large sets and rear projection to mimic the real world. Narrative Structure The Classical Hollywood style is focused on the characters more than anything else and these characters are obvious in their intentions usually trying to overcome some type of adversity to reach a certain goal. The characters are psychologically motivated and clear in their intentions. The narrative is structured in a way not to confuse the viewer and over the course of the film the main characters try to reach their goal or overcome the adverse conditions set out for 3

4 them. The narrative ends with the main character achieving their goal or their triumph or failure. The film usually ends with a happy ending and the hero prevails and the villain gets punished leaving the movie audience with a feeling of satisfaction from viewing the film. The way an actor portrays their character affects the audiences feeling towards that character. In the classical style the hero s and villains are clearly defined and the intentions of these characters are obvious. The classical narrative structure focuses on creating verisimilitude which attempts to create a feeling of the situation the characters are in to be realistic to the viewer. This is accomplished through the use of mise-en-scene literally meaning put in the scene. This is a combination of set decoration, costumes, lighting and the attitude of the actors in their actions and mannerisms. The use of set decoration helps to portray an era in history or the conditions the characters live in by placing distinct props in the scene. An example of this is from the movie Almost Famous (Appendix 1). Another example is the use of accurate props that would be used in real life and also the lingo or language of the activity the scene tries to represent (Appendix 2). Costumes are the clothes the actors wear in a scene. The costumes represent the characters attitudes reflecting their fashion style and personality traits. Costumes can also represent the style of a particular era (Appendix 3). Lighting can be used to create mood in a scene. The use of light reflects how an image is perceived as well as the depth of characters to create a center of interest in a frame. Classical Hollywood style uses the technique of three-point lighting in order to accentuate an actor or another center of interest with a perception of depth using lighting from three directions (Appendix 4). A backlight helps differentiate the actor from the background, a key light is brighter and highlights the center of interest in the frame, and a fill light from the opposite side ensures that the key light casts only faint shadows. 4

5 Classical Continuity The following section will outline the conventions used in the Classical Hollywood Style and give specific examples to aid in the illustrations of these techniques. The editing style of Classical Hollywood style is continuity editing. The idea is to suture the viewer into the film creating a seamless film watching experience. The individual shots are arranged to maintain the continuity of space and time following a temporal sequence of events that make up the story of a film. A system of editing is used to create continuous action in the narrative of a film resulting in a clear understanding of the films narrative structure. Each shot in developed into a scene using obvious distractions towards the viewer to not notice the cuts in a scene. Techniques used are eyeline matches, dialogue, and music to draw attention away from the cuts. An eyeline match ensures the next shot begins in the same proportion where the previous scene left off. Dialogue is used by key words that distract the viewer from the transition of one shot to the next. The amplifications of a certain word are an example of this technique. Music is used to aid in the transition of shots adding another element to distract the viewer from the cut. This type of continuity editing is still popular today and the audience needs to analyze the film very little to understand the plot. This approach is used to assist the audience in obtaining satisfaction from watching a film of this classical style. The use of an establishing shot is used in the beginning of a scene to establish the spatial surroundings of a scene. The establishing shot is usually filmed from a distance giving the audience and idea of what is involved in the scene. The establishing shot aids the audience in understanding where the characters are and who is where in the construction of a scene. The next technique used is the 180 rule. The idea of this convention is for the camera to never cross an imaginary line that is drawn creating a 180 space for the scene to be shot within (Appendix 5). The idea is the film viewer would become confused if the scene left the imaginary 180 radius of the scene area. The viewer must feel that space and time are contiguous between shots that form 5

6 a scene. A convention that is used in the combination with 180 rule is a 30 camera movement between shots. The purpose of this technique is that the camera would move a minimum of 30 between shots in a scene in respect to the axis the camera is on and the axis of the action taking place in the scene. The use of voice-over narration is used in classical style to bridge gaps between a flashback or a temporal jump in a film. The audience will be viewing an image where the character is not actually speaking in the scene; the voice over convention is used to explain what the viewer is observing in a scene to illustrate a situation that has happened in the past. A point of view shot is used to help identify what the character is looking at in a scene. The point of view is the characters eyeline showing what the character would see. The first shot would typically be the character looking at something and the next shot would be what he character is looking at. The use of a shot/reverse shot is a convention of the classical continuity style. This convention is usually used for dialogue scenes in a film. The scene will start with a two-shot showing the characters involved in the dialogue. The next shot will be an over the shoulder point of view listening to the dialogue of the character. The next shot will be the response of the other character in the dialogue responding to the dialogue of the character in the previous shot. The scene will usually conclude with the original two-shot of the characters involved in the dialogue scene. An example of the shot/reverse shot can be viewed in Appendix 6. There is also an economic approach to this technique. The idea is that each actor does not need to be present on the set for the shot that directly involves the character in the dialogue. The dialogue of each character can be filmed separately and edited together to give the impression of the characters being face-to-face with each other. The use of a stand in can be used because a person s shoulder can look the same as the actor. 6

7 Conclusion The meanings attributed to the conventions used in the Classical Hollywood style ensure the audience is able to understand the plot of a film and have a feeling of time and space that is not confusing for the audience of a film. The conventions used in the continuity style help to reinforce the beginning and end of the main issues characters face in a film of the classical style. The continuity editing style creates a seamless viewing experience that conveys a story that cannot be questioned by the audience. If two people viewed the same film using continuity editing, the impression gained from watching a film would be similar between the people viewing the film. The purpose of early cinema was to provide entertainment to the viewer. Using clear-cut characters with obvious goals and intentions leaves nothing open to question for the audience. The audience is unconscious of the construction of shots into scenes but is conscious of the affects a film has as a whole in respect to the objective of the story a film portrays. The Classical Hollywood Style is effective in entertaining the audience and delivering what the film makers think they want. The intention of the film maker, in this situation, is for the audience to obtain a feeling of satisfaction from watching a film. The technique of continuity editing is still used today and is appropriate for the right type of film that is targeting a certain type of audience. Some may argue this type of film is brainless for the viewer but sometimes the spectator of a film just wants to be entertained and does not want to have to analyze a film to understand the meaning of that film. 7

8 Works Cited Clearwater, David. MMED 3850N: Cinema History (1945-present) (Online) [ Accessed 10 February 2003 Kolker, Robert. Film, form, and Culture Second Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, Needham, Coal. The Internet Movie Database (Online) [ Accessed 10 February 2003 Prunes, Mariano Raine, Michael Litch, Mary. Film Analysis Yale Film Studies (Online) [ Accessed 7 February 2003 Filmography Crowe, Cameron, dir. Almost Famous. US, 2000 Dahl, John, dir. Rounders. US, 1998 Demme, Ted, dir. Blow. US,

9 Appendix 1 Set Decoration Set decoration helps to portray an era in history or the conditions the characters live in by placing distinct props in the scene. Frame taken from Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, 2000). Identifies that the time of year is near Christmas Movie showing is reflective of era of film Identifies style of fashion of era, also the weather is warm in December 9

10 Appendix 2 -- Props The use of accurate props that would be used in real life and also the lingo or language of the activity the scene tries to represent. Frame taken from Rounders (John Dahl, 1998). Use of authentic poker chips and cards. Actors mannerisms and lingo reinforces validity. 10

11 Appendix 3 -- Costumes Costumes can also represent the style of a particular era. Frame taken from Blow (Ted Demme, 2001) s fashion, hair style and attitudes. 11

12 Appendix 4 Three Point Lighting Classical Hollywood style uses the technique of three-point lighting. Back Light Fill Light Key Light Camera Appendix Rule Scene cannot cross over into this area Imaginary 180 Degree Line 12

13 Appendix 6 Shot/Reverse Shot This is an example of a shot/reverse shot for a dialogue scene. Frames taken from Office Space (Mike Judge, 1999) Two-Shot First over the shoulder shot Next shot Reverse shot Next shot This shot ends the dialogue 13

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