3 Artistic Devices Used in Contemporary Movies and Film

Unlike written texts, movies generally employ three common types of artistic devices. These devices, although quite obvious once described, may not be immediately apparent to a young viewer. Educators can assist students in identifying these devices, defining their characteristics and understanding how they relate to the movie or film at hand. Repetition of this exercise will allow the young viewer to become proficient in quickly making the connection between the artistic devices used by the filmmakers and the movie’s underlying meaning.

The ELA curriculum of today has its roots in 17th, 18th and 19th century literature. The stories that interested the people of those times and were expressed via the written word. However, today’s youth will experience the vast majority of storytelling through screens (television, feature films, video games or the web). Thus, to stay relevant, modern educators must address stories told on screens as well as those in traditional written formats.

The three levels of artistic devices are:

1) Traditional Elements and Devices of Fiction in Novels and Short Stories
Many hours of current ELA instruction are spent on the elements and devices of fiction. They include: plot, character development, protagonist, antagonist, prologue, expository phase, crisis, rising action, falling action, denouement, epilogue voice, symbol, foreshadowing, flashback, imagery, irony, foil, archetype, motif, etc. These are also found in screenplays and the analysis of these elements and devices in the medium of film can assist students in understanding their use in written texts.

2) Traditional Devices of the Stage
These include: sets, simple lighting, costumes, props, sound effects, acting choice, choreography of movement, music and dance. The response to music and dance is something many young viewers are accustomed to already, as they are a crucial component of many popular movie and film productions.

3) Cinematic Methods
This layer of artistic expression includes shot angle, camera movement within the shot, music/sound effects, editing, colors/visuals and lighting levels.

In conclusion, no single method of adapting ELA curriculum to the current digital environment has been agreed upon. Many discussions and varying methods exist. However, regardless of the method, students will ultimately benefit from having the tools to make sense of what they see on the screen. The important aspect to take away from this writing is that every ELA course (from 6th to 12th grade) should devote a substantial portion of their lessons to analyzing stories through movies and documentary film.

How to Match the Music to Your Movie – Secrets of a Music Supervisor and Film Composer

So you’ve finally put together a great script, a team, and have even shot some of your scenes. You’re beginning to think about Post-Production, the editing and final touches to your film… and whoa, what about the music? Should you hire a composer? What about a music supervisor? What to do?

So many filmmakers find themselves in this position. As evidenced by any visit to a filmmaker’s industry panel or workshop, there is inevitably someone who is 90% finished but still has not thought about where to get the music either original custom scoring or licensed songs and soundtrack.

So with that in mind, here’s a quick overview of how to match music to your film.

1) Who is the intended audience?

Who are you aiming for to watch your film. The tighter your focus the better. Don’t just say everyone. Really think about who would most enjoy and even tell others and promote and evangelize your great work. These are your die-hards and your core audience. After all, creating something is about connecting with your audience. Who is your audience?

2) What emotion do you want to convey?

Music is cool in that it is invisible and yet so powerful. It’s like the magic weapon of master communicators. Just look at the advertising industry. 99% of the 30 second television spots have music or some form of enhanced sound design acting as music. The music is what carries the emotion. It bypasses the logical, judgmental left brain and goes straight to the core of emotion. You wouldn’t see people crying in the movies without the music – guaranteed. You can try this experiment at home. Watch some horror flick or thriller and turn down or even mute the sound. You wouldn’t be jumping in your seat. In fact, here’s a great test. Turn on a film like Friday the 13th with the sound off. Then, turn on a CD of something like Django Rheinhardt or Dixieland swing or some thing like that song by Katrina & the Waves & “Walking on Sunshine”. Pretty interesting juxtaposition. And this is what music supervisors and composers do all the time. They think about what the subtext of the scene and the entire arc of the film is and they match it musically.

3) Limit Your Universe.

Now you need to limit the choices of music/emotion you want to communicate. In a scene by scene list, you can start writing keywords. For a thriller, you may want to write words like fear, anxiety. There needs to be a release from the tension somewhere too. By creating this list prior to your spotting session, you have a way of communicating to your team whether that’s your editor, a composer, producer, music supervisor, etc. The spotting session is where you watch the film scene by scene and discuss where music should be and, just as important, where there should be no music.

4) It’s All About Timing

The late great film composer Jerry Goldsmith remarked, “It’s all about the timing.”80% of the job is carried by matching the tempo of the scene. This starts to get pretty specific and each composer or music supervisor will have their own take, but generally there is an established rhythm to a scene based on the edits and the overall context of where we are in the story.

The Art of Film Editing

Film editing is the art of storytelling and is unique to cinema. An editor is responsible for the cohesiveness of the story, the mood each sequence creates, the pacing of the story, and is one of the most important people in the final movie-making process. The editor oversees the final product to make sure the viewer is seeing the director’s vision.

In the early days of movie making, an editor using analog film would manually edit it, physically cut each frame and hot splice them together to make a whole. Edwin S. Porter, a pro filmmaker at the beginning of the early 1900s, is thought to be one of the first in the industry to utilize and develop the art of editing. He was one of the first to use action editing, the piecing together of different shots and scenes, to make the movie more visually engaging. Today, with the advances in technology, film, and with the addition of digital and HD cameras, filmmaking has come 180 degrees since the days of Edwin Porter.

In the 21st century, movie editing has advanced far beyond the cutting room floor and the physical splicing of film. Now it can be digitally edited by professionals and amateurs alike using advanced software programs. The art and music hubs of NYC and LA are being expanded to many areas of that nation through the ease of high tech resources that are available to even the most amateur of filmmakers. Now the art of editing, once a profession limited to a few, is available to anyone with the ambition and drive to become the storyteller of cinema.