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Randy Walsh

Screen direction error in Manchester by the Sea

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Ok, is it just me? As I was watching Manchester by the Sea, there is a scene in the hall of the hospital where Eflack is leaning about his brothers death. Scene is: 4 people standing in a hall of hospital... there is Dialogue Between all 4. The coverage was distrurbing to me. They crossed the line several times while covering that scene. Was it deliberate? Acident? Stupidity?

Doesn't matter what the cause, it bothered me.

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Could this be another "reverse lead room" discussion?

 

I don't think I got that far into Manchester. Is the clip up somewhere for reference?

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No, I don't have a clip to post.

I too... didn't get far into the movie. This scene is close to the beginning. But it's very much worth looking for. I'm a cinematographer with over 35 years experience. Screen direction is a major deal to me. I screwed up once in a indie film and I'll never do it again. I'm totally cool with breaking the rules, but usually with a flare... like; if you jump the line, the next shot would be extreme - like extremely wide. With that, I'm ok. Or with any other way that one could creatively concele the line breach. In this scene, there are 4 actors in dialogue and the audiuance needs to follow the story. Crossing the line in my humble view is damaging to the flow of information. Funny, my wife (watching it with me) didn't notice anything wrong.

So... hmmm.

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If the shot were intended-

I could buy that if: the cross the line shot(s) were more extreme... like super wide... much higher or lower... just different from the other coverages. That's just my opinion.

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kurosawa breaks the axis - people study it in school

lonergan breaks the axis - people complain on the internet :)

 

sign of the times!

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Your post is Interesting.

I find it careless, lazy or just ignorant.

Again, I've made that mistake before and I'll never do it again - unless I make the line-cross dramatic and on purpose.

In their case, it was not dramatic it was part of a normal cutting exchange.

Ok, I'm over it. I just had to vent. Thanks everyone for indulging me.

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kurosawa breaks the axis - people study it in school

lonergan breaks the axis - people complain on the internet :)

 

sign of the times!

That is a succinct and provocative beginning point...

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Did people really start analyzing Kurosawa a year after he tried breaking the axis?

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I saw Manchester by the Sea a while ago and all I remember was having enjoyed it. I just watched the clip above and have to say the repeated forced switch feels a bit ugly, I can't think of a good reason why they did it. But I'm watching it in isolation.

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Hey Gregg,

I shot a music video for a band from New Zealand called SWAMP THING. Two man band- very dynamic . I was wondering if you know of them ? Drummers name is Michael Baker . Ring any bells?

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Hi Randy,

No, but I'll look them up. I avoided thinking about moving pictures for about 18 years from about '93, so I could have missed them, or the MTV clip....What was the song called..?

Edited by Gregg MacPherson

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The cuts are a bit jarring (by design I think) but since there are no singles or tight overs being intercut with opposing singles or overs, I don't see this as crossing the line. There's no way to shoot four people in a circle and not have positions switch when you look at them from different angles, and since most of the time the geography is clear and you know who is looking at who, I don't think of this scene as breaking screen direction rules, it's just more of an example of reverse masters being intercut. If that tightest over on Affleck had been intercut with a single or tight over of the person he was looking at and they had crossed the line, then that would be a bigger violation of the 180 rule. But the rule exists so it is clear where people are looking and who they are talking to, so if that's not confusing, the rule has less importance.

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To be honest, I think it's the editing more than the coverage that makes the scene jarring. It's almost like the scene as shot was intended to play out in way fewer cuts with long pauses, but for some reason in the editing room they decided to quickly ping-ping between the same four or five angles. Maybe they needed to speed up the pace of the scene or cut around some extra dialogue.

 

The geography is perfectly clear, and there's no confusion over who is looking where. But I think the scene would have played out better by holding for a long time with the wide master, then cutting progressive closer to Affleck and avoiding the other characters coverage entirely, so that we only see his reactions to their words. Then cut to the thru-the-window shot to see him boil over in anger and the other characters flinch over muffled silence. At least, I'm guessing that's how the coverage was intended to play out.

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Not thinking of Manchester by the sea, just thinking generally, are the apparent violations of existing principal just being enforced upon us. Watching tv show Bloodline S03 E05 at about 34:20, two characters talking over the phone at a prison visit, a three minute scene, the axis of their eyeline is crossed about 12 times out of 24 cuts.

 

If we are repeatedly exposed to this stuff we will just have to accommodate ourselves, normalize ourselves to a new screen language, making sense of it ourselves, developing novel theory, or waiting obediently for some academics to provide that...

 

It may just be...grasping some new degrees of freedom, to use a physics metaphore, but not really knowing what to do with it....

Edited by Gregg MacPherson

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I shot something at the end of last year where I got a bit creative with screen direction in a way that sort of works a bit maybe. It was a choice which highlights a common concern.

 

Excessive caution leads to uninspiring material. I have repeatedly cursed myself for it. Get too conventional and it looks like a British crime drama series.

 

Go too far off piste and you get - well - this. Interesting but a bit distracting.

 

It is a puzzlement.

 

P

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As a self confessed conservative old fart,steeped in years of BBC training... I didnt mind this at all.. Im sure the effect was intentional edit wise.. even if not shot that way.. main thing you could tell where people were looking and the "square" shape stayed the same.. and no reverse lead :)...

 

Haha yes I did study Kurosawa at film school.. cappuccino machine breaking was far more a concern that any axis breaking ..

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I'm mainly curious what the intended effect of the editing in this scene was supposed to be. Not having seen the film, I'm guessing that Affleck is the lead and the story is told from his point of view?

 

If the intention was to suggest Affleck's shock at the news of his brother's death and his mental state as he keeps getting snapped back to reality, then I don't think it works that well. Mainly because it feels like an effect designed in the editing room and not really supported by the camera work.

 

It seems to me that the scene as shot was designed for a more subtle editing approach of cutting from wides to tights and holding on his reactions. Maybe I'm showing my own biases - one of my pet peeves is ping-pong editing, where the editor keeps cutting between the same four or five angles like live television. I think it makes the cinematographer look bad by not allowing the shots to play out and develop, as if we just set up four cameras in the room with no design of which shots to use when in the sequence.

 

I think it was Hitchcock, the master of the designed sequence, who said you should never cut back to the same shot twice - that each cut should propel you to the next shot so that new information is continually revealed. The idea being that the audience subconsciously knows when a shot is re-used in a sequence, so unless there is new information being revealed, the momentum of the scene stalls.

 

Obviously, this is somewhat impossible advice to follow in a dialogue scene where the coverage is usually intended to be intercut. But I think editors especially can take the basic idea to heart - cuts are precious, save them for when they mean something, or they won't mean anything.

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sadly cuts were only precious in the days where cutting was a physical act. In the world of control "z" nothing really need be designed, but rather "discovered" for better or worse.

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Oh it's totally fine says this director/editor who frequently breaks continuity to serve a "higher purpose."

 

I have one simple answer to everyone that complains about my work on the internet, go *bleep* yourselves, all of you!!

 

R,

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I think it was Hitchcock, the master of the designed sequence, who said you should never cut back to the same shot twice -

 

I like this approach if only because it's more fun to plan. I call it the "puzzle piece" approach where each shot fits in a place to make the whole. It's funny though, if you try this in the world of advertising you can get into trouble, which is something I learned the hard way. The one thing agency people like more than their trendy clothes are options. Since I'm almost never invited to the edit and since being in an edit suite is NOT being in their office... they like to milk the edit session for everything it's worth. Which, if not covered like crazy, can lead to some pretty funky cut jobs.

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sadly cuts were only precious in the days where cutting was a physical act. In the world of control "z" nothing really need be designed, but rather "discovered" for better or worse.

It's not about the material cost of the splice though. Cuts are precious because the audience's attention is so tenuous. Once you lose them, they're gone. And every time you add an unnecessary cut, or shot, or gesture you diminish the focus of the film.

 

It's like telling a joke - every unnecessary detail makes the joke less funny. At a certain point, it just stops being funny altogether.

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It's funny though, if you try this in the world of advertising you can get into trouble, which is something I learned the hard way.

One of my good friends produces and directs medium to medium-large broadcast and ad-buy commercials. He's really good at the puzzle piece approach, to the point where he can edit in-camera to the second, but he also always edits his own footage. Somehow, he makes it work!

 

In my personal experience on much smaller budget projects, handing off such puzzle piece material to an editor who was brought in later can be a real crapshoot. I feel like in some cases, it's because the editor is being stubborn and doesn't want to look at the shot list or script notes and wants to find their own way. Which would be fine if they then didn't complain to the director that the footage doesn't make sense and that they need pickup shots to make the sequence work. At which point, I feel like telling them to simply put the shots in scene # order and cut off the slates, John Ford style...

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