Hi! I’m Darek Kowal, creator of the comedy/horror web series ANYTOWN, USA! My show tells the story of an every-day, All-American, modern family … of cannibals, living in suburbia and dealing with rude neighbors the best way they can … by eating them. Our first 10 episode season is available at www.anytownusaseries.com1 and season 2 is currently filming! Besides Anytown, I’ve been a professional writer for over 10 years, received a B.A. from Columbia College Chicago, and have written feature scripts for several independent production companies, including the producers of ABC’s Castle.
I’ll be doing a regular posting here at Stareable, in hopes of sharing my experiences with the filming of season 2 & any other thoughts and observations I can make about media and the creative process.
Today we’re going to be looking at how to direct a short scene by positioning actors. The scene in question is the opening to Anytown, USA’s season 1 finale ‘Part Three’.
At the end of the previous episode, Ryan (Darek Kowal) and Molly (Jin Park) have discovered that it was Brad (David Towne) who had been blackmailing the family. As we open on our finale, Brad is caught red handed, face to face and in the crosshairs of two bloodthirsty cannibals.
Here’s how we start the scene.
Brad stands. Eyes looking down at Molly & Ryan. Even as he’s been caught, he remains in the dominant position. He’s got the high ground. He’s starting the scene on top.
Molly sits. Looking up at Brad. She’s starting the scene at a disadvantage.
Ryan sits. Also looking up at Brad. Also at a disadvantage. He’s got an uphill battle ahead.
What happens next? BOOM!
Ryan grabs a knife, charges Brad, pushes him against the fridge. And they are positioned as so:
The actors are on the same plain. The playing field has been leveled. Brad’s advantage has been taken away. Even the physical height advantage of Brad just adds a natural challenge for Ryan to conquer.
Next, Ryan further changes the power structure by yanking Brad to the floor. Look how their position changes again, and what it tells the audience:
Brad is pinned to the floor, staring up at certain death. He has lost all of his power. He is at his most vulnerable.
Ryan hovers over Brad, hand around his throat. This is Ryan at his most powerful, in total control. And of course …
Mr. Knife is doing his job. Hanging over Brad like a guillotine. The players are in their positions. The threat is real. Maximum. Tension. And as for Molly?
She looks down at the situation. Her vulnerability, her disadvantage. It’s turned to pity. Even though she’s a cannibal, she doesn’t want to see Brad die at her husband’s hands. And Ryan?
He looks up to his wife before making his decision. Without a spoken word, the audience is told that Ryan ultimately looks to Molly for his moral compass. When she shakes her head ‘no’, Ryan listens. He lowers the knife and throws David into a chair at the table. How are our actors positioned for this next set up?
Read Part 2 to see how the rest of the scene plays out!