Directing on paper...

People occasionally write to me and ask how they can get away with depicting a close up of something without actually writing the words CLOSE UP in the script. I always respond with an adequate answer. But I recently found a great quote from writer/director James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line) that sums up this particular dilemma pretty darn well. Here’s what Mr. Mangold had to say:

“You don’t have to say, ‘Extreme close up on Cally as she cries.' All you have to write is, ‘A tear runs down Cally’s cheek’, and from that line alone, you feel that the writer is describing a close-up. It’s a close-up because you can’t see a tear on a cheek from far way. What you’re subtly describing is a shot, a specific camera set-up. If you’re describing someone’s eyes, then it isn’t a wide shot. If you’re describing clouds, it ain’t a close-up. This way you may subtly persuade the director to shoot the scene in your style. You can do this instead of filling the script with tech-talk and no one will accuse you of directing on paper. "

Thanks, Mr. Mangold, I think that’s a pretty solid explanation of how to write direction into your script without getting overly specific.

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