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Cinematic Storytelling: The 100 Most Powerful Film Conventions Every Filmmaker Must Know Paperback – August 1, 2005


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Cinematic Storytelling: The 100 Most Powerful Film Conventions Every Filmmaker Must Know + Master Shots Vol 1, 2nd edition: 100 Advanced Camera Techniques to Get an Expensive Look on Your Low-Budget Movie + The Filmmaker's Eye: Learning (and Breaking) the Rules of Cinematic Composition
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions; 7.2.2005 edition (August 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193290705X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932907056
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.5 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

What a fascinating book for a scriptwriter to read!
Sable Jak
By using written scenes from movies, coupled with actual film scenes printed alongside, Jennifer teaches visual storytelling in a way few books have done.
Jymack
(Not like it's probably already long enough as it is!] Interest Level I found that it was very easy to maintain interest in this book.
Jeremy T. Hanke

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

294 of 303 people found the following review helpful By Jymack on September 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
Having taught screenwriting for UCLA's Writing Program as well as being a working screenwriter for the past 20 years I've always been asked what separates a professional screenplay from the thousands of amateur screenplays out there. One of the things aspiring writers lack is what we call "getting your chops", a term borrowed from musicians. Meaning real, live experience that simply can't be taught. And usually, the only way to get it is by having your material produced. Jennifer Van Sijll's book CINEMATIC STORYTELLING, is the first book I've read to take an intensive look at what takes years and lots of produced credits to learn. By using written scenes from movies, coupled with actual film scenes printed alongside, Jennifer teaches visual storytelling in a way few books have done.

What I learned early on in this business is that there are several drafts after the one you sell. Many of us refer to them as the producer's draft, the director's draft, the actor's draft and the crew's draft. And you will make changes in all of those areas for reasons of character development, budget, schedule, location and ego.

Do writers really need to know about how films are shot and edited, even how sound can enhance a screenplay? The answer is yes and Jennifer's book, very appropriately titled provides invaluable information, something all writers whether aspiring ones or seasoned pros like myself need to consider. What she illustrates are the various parts of a movie and how they relate to the screenplay. The book is divided into chapters with topics like framing, locations, sound effects, transitions, camera motion and lenses, lighting, props and many more.
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148 of 160 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy T. Hanke on November 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
I recently reviewed a great debut film called 'Ascension' from a new microcinema director. The story and shooting style were fairly direct and straightforward; but--as this movie showed--just because the script didn't call for Michael Bay-style camera moves, it didn't mean that the shots had to be boring! A lot of beginning filmmakers (and even some that have more experience) can feel that they have to have lots of swooping crane or dramatic steadicam shots in order to have a great-looking movie. This isn't true. In reality, if you don't know how to effectively use the camera in the first place (visually speaking, not technically), you have no business putting it on a crane or steadicam; these devices cannot fix a visually uninteresting or inappropriate shot.

Enter Cinematic Storytelling. Using some of the most iconic and well-known films as examples, Jennifer Van Sijll explains how to use visual composition, lenses, editing, sound effects, transitions, camera position, and much more to give emphasis and convey information and emotion in your movie.

Comprehension

One of (the many) cool things about this book is that you don't have to have had any prior experience working with cameras to be able to understand the material. If you can read English and can look at the picture examples given (still photos from various films), then you can understand the concepts conveyed in the book.

Concepts and techniques (such as montages, intercutting, visual foreshadowing, etc.) are defined and clarified; even very subtle techniques that are almost unnoticeable in movies are pointed out and their effect explained. (For example, in describing the X-axis in screen direction, Van Sijll notes:

"As Westerners we read left-to-right.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Sable Jak on October 2, 2006
Format: Paperback
What a fascinating book for a scriptwriter to read! At first, you think "This isn't meant for me--it has chapters on camera lenses and camera positions, and wardrobe and sound effects! That's stuff directors and cinematographers and other people work with." From understanding the medium you're working in, comes better work.

Jennifer Van Sijll's Cinematic Storytelling provides 100 film conventions (as mentioned in the full title) in concise, two-page examples. The pages are index card-like in their brevity, but are so well-done there is no need for extra words. First, she lists the filmmaking element, such as "Motion," and gives an explanation. Next, she gives a film example, such as E.T., and explains the scene pictured in stills and how the particular scene conveys the element. If needed, she lists a script note or two and then explains what the dramatic value is of the element. Lastly, she lists a few other films that can serve as examples. The page with movie stills also contains the scene's script passage to show how the element was written. A writer will find the pieces of script excellent examples from which to learn.

Van Sijll's layout and logical progression through the different elements of film, from frame composition to locations and lighting, are easy to follow and almost Zen-like in their simplicity. Despite that simplicity, they do make an impact and stay with you long after you've put the book down. You'll find that when you sit down to write, you'll try and put those elements into your script with just a few well-chosen words (so not to look as if you're trying to direct). There are no exercises or homework and there is no general format information or advice on what the latest trick is to get your script seen.
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