Camerawork and Character

Character isn't something that's only revealed in front of the lens
Character isn’t something that’s only revealed in front of the lens

Actors, costume designers, make-up artists and set dressers all work hard to enhance character through their work. Often cinematography is not considered part of this process, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t be.

Here are some examples of how I’ve used cinematography to enhance character:

  • In Soul Searcher, protagonist Joe has an unrequited love for waitress Heather. Whenever they talk to each other, her CUs are shot on sticks, while his CUs are shot handheld, reflecting his nervousness.
  • There is a similar situation in Someone Else’s Shoes, written and directed by Nick Fogg. We decided to use wide lenses for the man’s CUs, putting the audience right there with him, and long lenses for the woman’s CUs, suggesting she is being observed and loved from afar. You can watch Someone Else’s Shoes below.
  • I won’t reveal the name of this film, because it’s still in post and I don’t want to spoil the plot, but a project I worked on last year featured certain characters who were real and others who were imaginary or supernatural. I decided to give the unreal characters perfect haloes of backlight wherever they went, and make their faces flawless by surrounding them with reflectors.
  • In Ted Duran’s The Gong Fu Connection, which we start shooting next week, the theme of connecting with people is very important. Characters who have this connection will be shot in two-shots and dirty singles, while characters who don’t will be shot in clean singles or isolated in frame.
  • For Coffin Grabber, director Claire Alberie devised a visual grammer whereby the film’s young protagonist would be shot at his eye level with an engaing handheld camera, while adults would be shot in locked-off, isolating wides.

How could you use cinematography to reveal and enhance character in your films?

Camerawork and Character