Production techniques

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To go from script to film, what’s involved? Some obvious questions need to be answered. Locations and set, actors and casting, shooting style and format. You may think that most of these questions would be answered by reading the script. How has the writer described location, set, actors and style of the filming to be used? Some of this information might be vague in the script and need further working out thought, but often when the script has been delivered it is time to start the interpretation of the project.

How do the producer and the director envisage the final film? Sparse set or cluttered set, colourful or monotone, characters young or old, handheld shots with lots of movement or static shots, steady and smooth? Even with these few combinations of possibilities you can imagine how different the film might end up if just one or two of them are changed.

Script

Deciding on the style in which the film is to be shot requires thinking through several aspects of the script. In Threshold there are two characters who have recently been in a close relationship and this dynamic needs to be portrayed visually. Some elements of tension are also required relating to the theme of contagion. Will she contract the disease if she goes near him, is the virus capable of transmission through the air – or would she need to make physical contact? What do we know about any of this, and what should we tell the audience? Withholding information is sometimes a useful narrative device that encourages the audience to become engaged with the dilemmas facing the characters – equally it is sometimes useful if the audience knows more than the protagonist in a story.

Setting

The choice of set and props is also important. A small confined set using a hallway covered in ‘Police Aware’ tape is inexpensive to stage but conveys the seriousness of the quarantine situation. A closed apartment door used to separate the two characters gives a feeling of being isolated and most of the dialogue takes place through the closed door. The use of the door is also a key factor in building the relationship. When will the door be open, when will it be shut and what meaning would that add to the scene? When the door is closed the characters’ body language and facial expression can only be seen by the audience, each character being denied that information about the person on the other side of the door and only being able to work out any meaning through the delivery and emotion of the lines.

The scene is therefore cleverly and inexpensively set. Now the emphasis on building the tension falls upon the characters and the style of shooting. Body language and facial expression are vital if actors are to deliver any dynamic in the relationship. Close Ups (CUs) and intercutting could be considered as a style that might work to deliver this tension in their relationship.

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