How to Become a Film Director – Cinematic Power Shift

– Posted in: Directing Films and Videos Directing the Camera

A Simple Cut Can Make All the Difference

In this video, film director John Holser talks about cinematography techniques that can be used to create tension and rhythm in your next film. From pre production to post production, using these techniques will help to guide the audience’s emotions.

Here is a recap of this video:

00:38 – An idea for a cinematic technique is uncovered during a coaching session

02:01 – Using a scene beats to place a cinematic / character power shift

03:08 – Using intentional rhythm points to set story energy, focus, and point of view

03:36 – An example of a cinematography technique to enhance emotion

04:05 – Using cinematography techniques in pre production through post production – Best Practices

05:15 – Bloopers

Film Directing is having the camera in the right place and cutting at the right time. Not so simple.

Here’s a Full Video Transcript

Two characters struggling for power can make for some amazing cinematic moments. In this video, I’m going to show you some cinematic techniques for creating tension and rhythm in your next film, so stay tuned.
Welcome to How To Become A Film Director. My name is John Holser. I’m here to help you develop serious directing chops one professional grade tip at a time. Oh yeah.

Creating tension and rhythm in a film is important, because you can use them to guide the audience’s emotions.

During a recent coaching session, filmmakers Hunter Dimn and Chris Uhl uncovered a cinematic idea they hope will bring another story layer to their film. I think it’s a good idea, so let’s listen in.

You guys spent some time yesterday doing camera blocking and a lot of other stuff. What did you focus on while you were together?

First we established that when Death is in control, we want it to be fairly static, and when Stanford’s in control, we want a lot of kinetic energy. Every single shot is going to be moving when Stanford’s in control whether it’s on a dolly, or handheld, or something. There’s going to be motion. When Death is in control, it’s almost always locked off. We established that first, then we went through and we actually lined the whole script for whether or not Death or Stanford was in control.

You want to indicate in the script that he’s in control so cinematically you’re going to use some of these motion techniques and also maybe cutting techniques in order to achieve that?


I’d like to point out that Chris is talking about using the camera to guide the audience’s emotions. Chris said, “When Stanford is in control, we want the camera to be kinetic. When Death is in control, we want the camera to be static. What does he mean by “in control”?

Consider this, if one character is seen as being in control, the other character is perceived to have lost control. The change in control is the power shift. It must be clear to the director where it happens.

These changes are also considered scene beats.

Beats are a broader category for a change in subject matter, action, thought, or emotion. When a beat opportunity is uncovered during the director’s script analysis, it can be cinematically enhanced. Beats can and will also happen spontaneously if the actors are truthful and work moment to moment.

Beware, the actor is and should only be concerned with the truth of the moment. Powerful moments will happen spontaneously. When they do, the director must be certain they serve the story arc. That’s the director’s job.

When a beat is both spontaneous and it serves the story, a director can and should make cinematic changes on the fly.

This is what I like best about directing. These shifts or beats can become rhythm points. When they’re intentional, they help set story energy, focus, and point of view. It’s obvious, but worth noting.
You can’t juxtapose static and kinetic unless you know where one ends and where one begins. The change is the beat. At the beat, there’s a power shift and thus a rhythm point, or a change in rhythm. When Stanford takes control, the camera moves with him. This is the kinetic camera movement Chris was describing. When the camera stops, the power shifts to Death.

The cut, the framing, and the lack of movement makes both an artistic and a story statement.

It’s simple, but it’s effective. This is an example of cinematically directing a change in power; thus, a cinematic power shift.

How can you use this information?

Let’s say your scene, film, or TV commercial is based on two worthy opponents in conflict. By worthy, I mean they must be portrayed as equally powerful.

This is your job. You’re the director, so you distribute the power by designing shot angles, and deciding when the cut happens.

The right cut can make all the difference. You can’t make the right cut if you don’t have the right footage.

Uncover the power shifts in pre-production. Get shot coverage in production and distribute the power in post-production.

Don’t wait until you’re in the edit room to realize you can’t build the proper moments.

Scene 2B, stairs, take four.

These days, film and video production opportunities are abundant for directors and cinematographers who know their stuff. If you’d like to learn more about how you can begin a career, create more opportunities, or just how to make your next film your best film, click here right now. Don’t forget to like and subscribe.

And I’m here to help you direct some ser… yeah.

Start it from the top again. My name is John Holser.

I know that not every production can afford to hire a full crew. Come up with some money. You can’t keep feeding them pizza all the time.

Chica, chica, boom. Chica, chica, boom. Whoo yeah.

Hey guys, welcome to how to become

Oh, I can’t do it with the text going. When you’re ready, go all the way back to the top, please. If the text wasn’t there I might be able to.