Writer's WebFilm Studies Terms
Content by Carter Staub and Savannah Gillespie, Site by Megan Venable
. Some terms have been defined by Dr. Joe Essid for use in his courses.

When writing for film you must be able to differentiate between types of film writing assignments, and it is helpful to know film-specific vocabulary.

Various Types of Film Writing:
When writing for film, there are several different formats through which you can convey your ideas. Below are the basic definitions for three of the most common assignments you may encounter.

Useful Terms:

Mis en Scene: unlike montage, this is physically what is in a shot or scene and does not involve editing. It can involve camera movement and focus, lighting, scenery, placement of people or objects, and other elements a director can make happen on the set rather than later on in the editing process.

Montage: how directors connect ideas in a film. The shots are put together deliberately with transitions and by theme so that "elements should follow a particular system, and these juxtapositions should play a key role in how the work establishes its meaning, and its emotional and aesthetic effects" (Manovich 158). Montage certainly includes editing, the process that begins when the film has been shot and work on the project moves from set and actors to computers and post-production.

Shot vs. Scene: a shot is part of a film presented without any editing, as seen from a single camera's perspective. A shot can include close-ups, panoramic shots, camera movement and other techniques. Put shots together and one has a scene, a series of connected shots that establish location and continuity. The scene ends by cutting (often using a visible transition) to another location, time, or person. A "car-chase scene" is a rather common example where several cameras follow the action from different perspectives. The footage later gets edited to make one long scene.

Transition: the type of editing technique used to connect shots. Sometimes there is no transition, and others can be quick complicated. Fading to black is a popular transition, as are wipes and dissolves.

Types of Shots: The entire camera can move or the focus of the lens can change.

Camera Movement: cameras can remain stationary and move side to side (a pan), up and down (a tilt). They can move along on a vehicle or set of tracks straight backward or forward (a track or tracking shot). The camera can be carried for a wobbly (but often powerful) handheld shot. Other shots (some with the camera remaining stationary) include:


Elements of Framing a Shot:

Thematic Elements in Film:

Work Cited:
Manovich, L. The Language of New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.

Image credits: .

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