Keep Everything in Motion

There’s a reason why movies are also called “motion” pictures. That’s because everything needs to be moving at all times. The more active every scene appears, the easier it is to follow the story.

At the very least, avoid talking heads. That’s where two people sit and talk and nothing happens. Sometimes you need these scenes so the trick is to make the scene active by putting it in a unique setting so the setting remains active while the two talking heads speak.

In “Blood Simple,” there’s a talking head scene where two people talk, but to make this scene interesting, it takes place in a strip club. So while the two characters talk, a woman’s legs appear on a stage, slowly dropping her clothes to the floor as people around whistle and cheer.

So although this is a talking head scene, there’s something visual taking place to make the scene more interesting.

Another talking head scene occurred in “Rocky” where Rocky and Adrian are rolling skating around in an indoor rink. Although both characters are talking heads, Adrian is on roller skates and Rocky is walking beside her so they’re both moving, and this motion alone helps keep the scene from feeling static.

If you can’t get the characters to move or other people in the scene to move, a second technique is to move the camera. In this way, the scene may be static but what the audience sees keeps changing because the camera keeps moving.

In an early scene in a movie called “The Player,” the scene sets up that the story takes place in Hollywood. As various people sit and talk, the camera keeps moving from one pair of talking heads to another. So even though the characters don’t move, the camera does move and keeps showing us different images and dialogue.

A third way to keep movement in a scene is through emotion. When a character’s going through an intense emotional moment, that’s internal movement and that’s far more powerful than physical action.

So when a character goes through an emotional moment, he or she may be standing still, but the power of that emotion changes that character.

In “Terminator 2,” all the characters are standing around, happy that they finally defeated the evil liquid metal Terminator. That’s when the hero (the good Terminator) tells John Connor that they need to destroy one final piece of the future and he points to his own head.

So even though everyone’s standing around, that emotional moment when they realize the good Terminator must die suddenly hits all of them. That’s a huge emotional moment.

So make sure every scene includes movement in one or more of the following ways:

  • Make the characters move around
  • Move the camera around the static characters
  • Keep the characters static but have them experience an intense emotional moment

Put these three ways to “move” a scene and you’ll likely create a far more interesting scene than watching a pair of talking heads.

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