FILMMAKERING LIKE A BOSS : DIRECTING ATTENTION PT. 1
Hello, I’m Thomas Tulak, and this is “Filmmakering Like A Boss,” a weekly micro-column all about how to Filmmaker like a boss!
I don’t claim to be an expert, but I am an award-winning filmmaker with a passion for filmmaking, which is really all you need to get started.
We all understand the language of cinema to a degree. However, a good filmmaker should be so fluent in it that they can speak to the audience with it, in order to effectively control how they feel and where they look.
The human eyeball is only able to focus on one small thing at a time. If you stick your arm straight out, give a thumbs up, and look at your thumb, you’ll notice the space you can actually focus on is only about as big as your thumbnail. Everything else in your field of vision is out of focus, and the further away from your thumb something is the more out of focus it is.
What you as the filmmaker want to do is effectively control what small space of your screen the audience is looking at
Have you ever watched something that you have seen a hundred times, then notice something in the shot you never noticed before, Like Wash’s invisible steering wheel?
There are 5 basic method of directing the audience’s attention toward a specific part of your screen. 5 things that inadvertently draw the eye in an almost involuntary way.
The first method is nudity, and I’m not going to talk about that one, because it should be pretty self explanatory. The 4 remaining methods I am going to cover over the next couple installments of “Filmmakering Like A Boss.”
Three of the methods of directing attention revolve around contrast, the first one up being the contrast in color.
If you have a shot composed of all dark colors, with a single brightly colored object, the eye will automatically be drawn to the bright color, and vice verse.
One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is with actors wardrobe and hair.
Take a look at this shot from The Matrix, where the woman in the red dress is in contrast to all the dark suited people around her. Your eye is instantly drawn to her almost as if you had no control over it.
Or this shot from Scott Pilgrim vs The World, where Romona stands in a crowd of people but you notice her instantly because her blue hair stands out in the sea of darkly colored extras.
Another, slightly more difficult, way to achieve this is with set design and lighting. Take a look at this shot from one of my short films, “Billy.”
You’ll notice the area of the screen where the male cop stands is lit up by the red light in the background, drawing your eyes to him. Then he stands out from that red light with his dark wardrobe. You don’t notice the female cop as quickly because she is standing in a darker area of the screen. Also, using the red light in this way allowed for some subtle foreshadowing because (spoiler alert) the male cop dies in the end.
You can watch this short film here:
And finally, the most complicated way to use contrasting color is with the “Pleasantville Effect.” This is where you actually change the colors in post to all black and white, then have one thing in color, forcing a dramatic contrast, where the audience’s eyes are instantly drawn to the one thing thats in color.
When done right, using color to direct attention is very effective, and a very useful tool for any filmmaker’s bag of tricks; and can help your project to stand out.
Thank you for reading this week’s “Filmmakering Like A Boss.” Look out for another post every Thursday. Next week I’ll be discussing another method of directing attention.
If you have any filmmakering questions or topics you’d like me to discuss please let me know in the comments below.
I’d like to invite you to see some of my Filmmakering in action at
Until next time,