Movie Magic?

Tuesday, 7 July 2015 | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Dear film and TV writers, directors and DOPs. Long time fan. Watch a LOT of movies and TV shows. Love getting to know complex characters, becoming lost in a story, suspending all disbelief. But there are times when you're wrenching me out of the action with some old movie "tricks" that need a rethink.

I most respectfully request that you try to curb and reimagine the following:

1) Sunny day wet downs. Notice how it has always JUST rained in a scene? (If you haven’t noticed this, sorry, you will now.) A wet down is when the director asks the special effects crew to make the roadway wet. The reason being, it looks way better when light reflects off a wet street versus a dry street, especially at night. But on a bright sunny day, it can also look kind of ridiculous. Where did that rain come from? And where’s my rainbow?


Talco image

2) Insulting instructions. Common in crime dramas. One cop says, “Hey boss, I found a cigarette butt.” The lead detective then says, “Could be the suspect’s. Bag it and book it as evidence.” “Will do, boss,” says first cop.

Really? Is that what we do with evidence? Even I know that! Writers, here’s your chance to shine.

3) Over Lit bedrooms. A couple is in bed and it’s time to go to sleep. They turn off the lights. Except that there’s still a strange glow emanating from somewhere. A neon sign outside perhaps? Phospherescent bugs? The actresses inner glow? I get that if it’s too dark we won’t be able to see the action. But you can do better. I’ve seen it.


 Lawrence of Arabia (Trust me, the technique hasn’t gotten any better.) 

4) Day for Night. The crew is shooting during day but they want it to look like night. So they put this weird filter on it. We, the people of the planet who sometimes go out at night, aren’t fooled. It just looks like you put a weird filter on it.

5) Cozy secrets. “Can I talk to you for a second?” says one character to another. The two go off to one side of the room, away from the rest of the group. They proceed to discuss something in “secret.” I know that lighting another set-up, like a hallway, takes time. But psst, fake whispering looks FAKE.

6)  Too close for comfort. If characters are standing a normal distance apart, on TV, they look like they’re standing overly far apart. That’s why everyone on TV looks like they’re crowding each other’s personal space and inhaling each other’s CO2. I don’t have a solution for this one, but it bugs me. Can we all agree to work on this one together?


One Direction’s “Kiss You” video (though here, they probably didn’t care that it looked fake.)

7) Green screen driving shots. It takes time and money to put a camera on a real car, I get that. But I can always tell when the actors are on a stage, in front of a green screen, with the fake background whizzing by behind them, sometimes even the same background, on a loop! Time to throw some money to the visual effects team.

8) Missing car parts. Check the above image. What’s missing? No headrests! It guess it looks better, especially if the camera person is shooting from the back seat. Let’s hope this fake car on the fake roadway doesn’t get into a fake accident!

I think that’s most of them.  Let me know if you need any help brainstorming solutions.


Kristina Matisic

Top image: Dark Knight film set

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  • https://www.facebook.com/susanjartist samONT2011

    To add…in soaps hardly anyone ever sits and talks! Two people are standing in the living room in front of the couch. Standing the whole time! Phew! I feel better now.

    • http://www.annaandkristina.com/ Kristina

      Good one! Yes, it feels a lot better to get this stuff off your chest.

  • fresca

    I would add two: uplighting in car shots at night- similar to bedroom lighting mentioned above it’s completely contrived. Are we meant to think that these people have some sort of inner glow that leaves them luminous 24 hours a day?
    Second, the way people are seated around a table. I love it when they cram 9 people around 3 sides of a table, leaving one side empty so they can get the shots. Interestingly, I see reruns of both the ‘Andy Griffith Show’ and ‘Happy Days’ and both of those seat people on all four sides of the table.

    • http://www.annaandkristina.com/ Kristina

      Yes, good ones Fresca!