2.0 What is a film made of?

Representations in film
Filmmakers can use a number of techniques to establish and develop characters.
Their choice of camera techniques, acting, mise en scene, editing, lighting and sound all contribute to the representation of a character.


Think carefully about the director’s use of camera techniques.

What does this help to tell us about the character?

The use of a close up might help to accentuate an actor’s facial expression. Likewise a high angle show might make them appear weak and powerless.

Camera movement. Crane, dolly, dolly in, dolly out, handheld, pan, pedestal, point-of-view shot, static, steadicam, tilt and zoom.

Shot size. Extreme long shot, long shot, full shot, mid shot, close up, extreme close up.

Camera angle. Overshot, high angle, eye level, low angle &  undershot


Everything an actor does is part of a scripted performance which has been directed.

A simple glance or gesture actors can convey a great deal about the inner lives of their characters.

How does an actor move?

What sort of facial expressions do they use?

What tone of voice do they employ?

How do these small details contribute to the development of a character?


Mise en scene refers to everything that’s put in the scene. It includes colour, costume, make up and the placement of props.

What does the selection of costume tell us about a character?

Does the composition of the shot convey information to the audience about character?

How does the use of colour in the frame contribute to the representation of character?


Films are edited. Every scene has been painstakingly constructed. There is nothing normal or natural about the way a scene unfolds. Filmmakers agonize over every cut.

Does the filmmaker choose to linger on a particular shot instead of cutting away. If so, why?

Are there any particular editing techniques that stand out?

What do they tell the audience about character?


It’s important to remember that in most feature films, although the lighting might look normal and natural, the filmmakers have gone to great lengths to achieve a particular lighting effect.

Lighting always makes a significant and meaningful contribution to the narrative.

When you’re watching a scene, think carefully about the use of lighting and what it tells the audience about a character.

What type of light is used?


In consultation with the director, sound editors and foley artists work tirelessly to construct the soundtrack. Every decision they make about the quality and placement of sound effects and music contributes to narrative, character development and audience engagement.

When you’re watching a scene, think about how sound contributes to character development.

What do the characters say?

What type of music has been used throughout the scene and how does it contribute to the representation of characters?

Are there any prolonged silences?

What sort of sound effects and ambient sounds have been used?

Are some sounds more prominent than others?

Are they faded in and out?

Photograph: Vancouver Film School. Image slightly cropped.

Representations in film

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