Many viewers have asked about the questions Daniel referred to in this video. Daniel has generously provided these questions along with (noted in blue) sample answers for a non-existent project.
36 QUESTIONS BEFORE DIRECTING A SCENE
(with sample answers)
Daniel Stamm, June 2019
1 – Scene number?
2 – Draft (Date)?
3 – Scene summary?
* Wedding rehearsal dinner, losing the poodle.
4 – Function / The scene is ‘as if’… / “Make this scene important to me.”?
* Jane’s family mistrusts Jack so much that every casual conversation is basically an interrogation scenario, and he always has eyes on him, as if he’s under surveillance.
5 – For long scenes: Can the scene be broken up into manageable chunks?
* a. Jack’s arrival b. Jack being bullied c. Jane’s speech.
6 – How is this scene reflecting the theme of the overall movie?
* Overall theme: ‘Family is a state of mind’; Jack is trying to win over Jane’s relatives, still thinking ‘family’ is something he has to accept/be accepted into whole sale. The failure of that will contribute to his later realization that it’s okay to mix-and-match & cherry-pick.
7 – What’s fun about the scene?
* watching Jack’s commitment to remaining calm and collected getting chipped away at.
8 – Question mark(s) within the scene?
* Will Jack and his ex bump into each other? Will Jack remain calm? Will Roger’s seduction attempts pay off?
9 – Central image audience is going to remember / thumbnail for DVD chapter / image we are working towards?
* Jack finally losing it, screaming at little girl, nose to nose, veins popping (profile 2-shot à la Alien 3).
10 – What are the crucial facts the audience needs to understand in this scene? What’s risky? Things to make sure?
*Make sure the audience understands that Jane’s ‘balloon’-joke references Roger’s previous ‘community theater’ remark.
11 – What are each character’s objectives in the scene?
* Jack: prove to Jane that her family will not break him; Jane: make her family love Jack; Roger: prove his manliness to his brother; Little girl: find her poodle.
12 – What are each character’s conflicts in the scene?
* Jack: trying to remember anger-management mantras; Jane: nose bleed; Roger: overcoming social anxiety, Little girl: overbearing mother.
13 – Whose POV are we experiencing the scene from?
* From Jack’s POV.
14 – Whose scene is it? Who or what are we told something about? (as opposed to POV)
* Jane’s family, especially her brothers.
15 – Progression in character arcs & relationships?
* Jack realizes Jane’s family will never accept him, decides to stop trying & grows from a child begging for acceptance into an independent adult; Jane appreciates her oldest brother for the first time in years.
16 – How are the location and production design a character in this scene?
*Tasteful opulence, reminding everybody how much Jack doesn’t belong.
17 – How is the lighting a character in this scene?
*Practicals on the tables create bright orbs of light, supporting the ‘police interrogation’ feel during specific conversations; bright spotlight during speech is literally putting Jack ‘on the spot.’
18 – How is the sound a character in the scene?
*All the marble and the sheer size of the hall create echoes/an acoustic hollowness that underscores how stiff & sterile the world of Jane’s family is.
19 – Possible activity for each character and what that tells us about them?
* Jack trying to fix his tie throughout (he’s a fish out of water in a costume), Jane is dealing with her nose bleed, Roger can be drinking furiously, the little girl is spreading treats.
20 – How do you want the audience to feel at the end of the scene?
*Relieved; proud of Jack, in love with Jane, sorry for Roger, disgusted with Jane’s family.
21 – What’s the overall tone/energy/rhythm of the scene?
22 – What’s the way to shoot this that reflects best what is felt?
* Lots of POVs of Jack (prey about to get attacked), handheld to emphasize he can’t find stable footing in this environment. Long-lens shots of Jack from far away & several angles, as if he’s getting stalked by predators.
23 – What are 2 possible other approaches to shooting this?
*Having a steadicam relentlessly circle around him so we feel his confusion and vertigo.
24 – What’s the fastest way to shoot this scene?
*Instead of Jack moving around, keep him seated in one place and let people come to him.
25 – What would it be like to shoot segments of this in one shot?
*See above: circling steadicam, or dolly move parallel with Jack, shooting conversations in profile 2shots.
26 – Add an interesting idea or composition / camera movement?
*Add low-angle POV of the poodle sitting under the table; pivot camera increasingly, mirroring Jack’s losing his balance and restraint.
27 – Ideas for transitions into and out of the scene?
* In: match cut on wine being poured into glass; out: hard cut to black.
28 – Anything that needs to be researched?
*Dress code for upscale wedding rehearsals, music.
29 – Experiences from your own life or other movies that would be helpful?
* (Poodle:) Yoko losing her turtle in 4th grade; (wedding rehearsal:) FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL.
30 – What are you nervous about/unsure of? Any tweaks to the dialogue that would help
* Is Betty’s jargon slightly over the top?
31 – Questions to ask writers/producers/showrunner?
* How broad do they see the comedic tone during the chase sequence?
32 – Questions & notes for department heads?
* Costume: what’s the appropriate fashion? Production Design: keep color palette de-saturated, provide table lamps for camera; Camera: create interrogation look; Props: utensils need family crest engraved; Make up: test nosebleed effect.
33 – Does the scene need rehearsals in advance? On set? What do you need to rehearse?
* Improvise the moment right before the scene starts with Jack (him getting the speeding ticket); have little girl and dog meet and get to know each other.
34 – Where are the beat changes in the scene? What are potential action verbs for each character? (‘to attack’, ‘to persuade’, ‘to flatter’ etc)
*See attached scene (not included in sample questionnaire).
35 – What could the blocking look like?
*See attached floor plan (not included in sample questionnaire).
36 – Storyboard the scene with stick figures!
*See attached storyboards (not included in sample questionnaire).
MORE VIDEOS WITH DANIEL STAMM
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Check out IDLED Movie (Vimeo On Demand) by filmmaker Andy Rayner ft. Robina Zamora and Wendy Alvarez – In what was supposed to be a simple move to his brother’s place, Val is forced to spend a day with himself and the painful memories of a failed romantic relationship with his childhood best friend.
Check out UNWHOLLY MOMENTS Movie (Vimeo On Demand) by filmmaker Andy Rayner ft. Robin Zamora and Liesel Hanson – A man dissatisfied with his life, attempting to be an actor struggles to connect with his profession and the people around him.