Whether you are talking about a homemade movie that you have thrown together with your first camera, or a feature film out of Hollywood, the basic elements of film are always going to be pretty much the same. But if you are keen to create something yourself, or just to understand better how others create films, then you will need to know what those elements are more directly, and how you can expect them to be used in different kinds of film. In this article, we are going to look at just four of the major, vital elements you can expect to find in any film. As long as you have a basic grasp of these, you should find that you are able to create your own film and understand the films you watch with much more intelligence and accuracy.
Of course, every film has some kind of a plot. It might be a Kaufman-style, all over the place kind of plot, or it may be mostly lacking in any distinct story like the film Baraka, but in every film there is at least a glimmer of a plot to be discerned, even if there is no dialogue and it is just an apparent mashing together of images, as in the latter. Plotting in film goes through several stages before it ends up as what you see on the screen, and it generally begins as an outline which is then turned into a script. From there, you will usually want to storyboard it, which is where you draw it out, scene by scene and then shot by shot, so that you have an actual visual representation of what is going to happen. That is clearly very useful when it comes to ensuring that the film looks how you want it to at the end, so this is a stage of the process which you can’t easily overlook.
This is the general word for all of the style that is achieved with the ways the equipment is used. So choosing certain kinds of camera angles and shots over other ones and choosing where to cut scenes and so on is all part of the overall cinematography. So too is the choice of equipment, as for instance, the kind of camera used will have a huge effect on this too. The cinematography is therefore basically the overall way that the film is shot, and it’s no surprise that this is one of the most important elements of all. It dictates, after all, exactly how the film is viewed and what it actually looks like on the screen, so it’s something that you will definitely need to put a lot of thought into if you are hoping to create your own film masterpiece. There is much involved here which you will want to research, so make sure that you are clear on what it is that you want to do here.
There are two main elements to the sound of a film: you have the soundtrack and the ambient sounds throughout the film. The ambient sounds are those which represent actions happening on the screen, and you might be surprised to learn that almost every sound you hear is added on afterwards rather than recorded organically, even the sound of a door shutting or a hand clapping. All of these are generally achieved in post-production, which helps to give them a much crisper, more finished feel to them. Those sounds help to really make a film come alive, as it is much easier to imagine yourself in the scene and to feel that you can suspend your disbelief. When it comes to the soundtrack, your decisions here are going to prove to be really important, as the music that is happening in the background at any one time really does affect the overall feel of the scene and the tone of the film. You’ll want to know what genre is likely to work best – whether you want to go for the punk rock of someone like Alison Mosshart or whether you are planning to go for something more traditional. It all makes a difference.
Clearly, the acting is important, as if it is not believable then the film is not believable. Finding good actors is tricky, because acting is such a hard thing to do convincingly, so you will need to make sure that you are prepared for a struggle before you find the right people. When you do find them, however, you can be sure that it will make your film come alive.