Shane Hurlbut: Storytelling through Composition

Shane Hurlbut covers some different types of shots and why he uses them.

Part 1:


Wide Shot aka Doinker:

This usually is used to educate the audience on place and geography. The establishing shot lets the audience know where everyone is. In my opinion, these frames are underutilized. I like seeing where my characters are, the time and space. It sets the tone, the mood, and it is where all light comes from, all motivation, all conception. This can be used to show the peril that your character is about to face; it can show scope; it can make you cry; it can ground you, create a sense of loneliness, move you, have you just say “WOW!” There is power in a wide shot. I have been spinning film through a camera for about 20 years now, and I still go to movies and drop my jaw with the incredibly talented cameramen/women who bring this art of cinematography to life.

Depending on the film, it can be a helicopter shot, a sweeping crane shot, a slow moving dolly or just a Doinker, which is one of those weird terms. This was introduced to me by McG on We Are Marshall. He kept saying, “We will set the camera up here for the Doinker.” I loved it and have been using the word to describe a locked off shot that “doinks” onto the screen ever since. McG has a passion for the entire process of filmmaking and inspires me creatively with his humor and vision.

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Part2

The Dirty OTS (over the shoulder):

This frame is another favorite. It can be used to show characters coming together because they are in love or for a particular cause or set of circumstances.

The person whose shoulder is being shot over is dirty, out of focus in the frame. To do these frames effectively and give your actors room to breathe, I suggest going on a slider, which in this instance we call “The Over Keeper” because you slide to keep your perfect dirty over. Sometimes your actors can lean, move, adjust themselves, and you don’t want to not see the actors’ eyes.

Being obsessed with the subtlety of shot design:

Other times, you can do overs that do not include the actor in the foreground. The director John Stockwell and I did this on Crazy/Beautiful in the beginning and used this style as a vehicle to bring the two together in a subtle way. We did not want Jay Hernandez and Kirsten Dunst to feel like they were together at first, so we shot clean overs. Then as they befriended one another, we started to link them together in wide dirty overs. Jay and Kirsten’s dirty overs became more and more claustrophobic as they fell deeper in love. We visually showed this by slowly narrowing that gap between them until they were literally on top of each other in the dark room scene.

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