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Learning from Ang Lee

There’s a creative exercise that I’ve done twice now… And I don’t remember where I got the idea to do it.

The exercise involves taking a scene from a movie, directed by someone great (like Ang Lee), and copying the scene shot by shot, paying attention to why they shot the scene the way they did. We took a scene from “Brokeback Mountain”.

This was the first time I did this. I thought it would be fun to rewrite the scene slightly to take place in the bakery Kaleb and Cameron worked at (with references to their competitor, Sara Lee). This was a seriously fun scene to shoot, and as far as what I learned is concerned… There’s a lot of movement in Ang Lee’s scene that I try to attempt now. A lot of the medium shots rested on the hips of the actors (called a cowboy shot, used in westerns to have the gun on the hip in the frame), which is something I never thought of doing before. Where different characters were in-frame helped tell the story visually, emotional distance was shown with physical distance. If you got the time, it’s a great exercise, and you learn a lot about staging.

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