Mise en Scene: What the Heck is it & Why is it Important?

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What the Heck is Mise en Scene & Why is it Important?

Working in the film business you hear many “inside” terms on a set like Apple box, MOS, montage don’t cross the line (to learn about the 180 degree line in a past article), etc. One such term is “Mise en Scene” or the translation “placing on stage.”

This is a French expression that refers to the design or the arrangement of everything as it appears in the framing of a film i.e. actors, décor, props, lighting, costumes and others. The term essentially means “telling a story” both in poetically artful ways and in visually artful ways through direction and storyboarding state design and cinematography.

It is also used to refer to the many single scenes that are within the film to represent the film. The term is broad, and it is also used among professional and experienced screenwriters to show descriptive or action paragraphs between the dialogs.

This is because of its relationship to shot blocking. The term mise-en-scene is called the film criticism grand undefined term. The term is so broad, and it defines and classifies a lot in the filming industry. The term roughly means to put into the scene or to place on stage.

Mise en scene is used to describe filmmaking and the process involved in the filmmaking process. In filmmaking, the first process is creating the ideas for the film. Here, the right books or plays are bought. These are the source of the initial ideas of the film.

The Producer

The producer selects the story from the books or a novel or the idea can even be an original idea or based on a true story. The producer then takes the idea to the writers, and they work together to create a synopsis. They then break down the story into simple paragraph scenes or the step outline as it is called.  The one paragraph scenes are the ones which concentrate on the most dramatic parts or structures.

After this, they prepare a good description of the story together with its moods and its characters. This stage has little conversations, but it mostly consists of drawings that help them to visualize all the key points. This is also the stage where the screenwriter comes up with a screenplay, and this takes a period of several months.

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The Screenwriter

The screenwriter has all the time to rewrite the screenplay if need be to improve clarity, dramatization, character, structure and dialogue. At this stage, the film distributor can be contacted and informed of the project for him to assess the financial success of the movie and look for possible markets.

The producer and the screenwriter will then prepare the treatment or film pitch, and they present it to the financiers. The financiers will go through the movie and also assess the likelihood of the movie making any profit.

They will contact some known movie stars to get them to feature in the film for publicity purposes, and after this stage is successful, the film can now go to the preproduction stage.

This is the stage that determines if the film will continue or not because, without funds, there would be no cast or crew to work in the film production. The parties involved in the financing will draft the appropriate contracts and also sign them to make a deal.

After this, the preparations for the shoot are made. This is called pre-production where locations for the shoot are selected and prepared before time, the cast and the film crew is hired, and the sets are built.

Here, all the process in the production of the movie is carefully outlined to each and every involved party, and they are also carefully planned. Even with a lot of funding, if this process is not done carefully, the film production can halt or even fail.

The most critical crew positions are outlined and the people to take those positions are named before anything else goes on. The most crucial crew positions that must be there to make a good film are:

  • Director
  • Costume designer
  • Film producer
  • Assistant Director
  • Unit production manager
  • Production designer
  • Location manager
  • Choreographer
  • Director of photography
  • Casting director
  • Production and sound mixer
  • Composer
  • Sound designer

These are crucial positions in the film production, and their roles cannot be ignored if there is to be a successful production of the film.

The Production

The production stage is the next one after preproduction. Here, the film is created and shot. There is the recruitment of more crew in this stage due to the complexities of some roles. This is the most complicated process of the film production.

Everyone involved in the film production has to take their roles seriously here for the production to be successful. A regular shooting day begins by the arrival of the crew at their call time. The actors usually have different call times, and the crew has to arrive early enough to prepare everything in advance before the actors come.

Set construction, setting, dressing and lighting is done before because it can take many hours and sometimes it can even take days. For efficiency purposes, the electric, grip and production design crews are always a step ahead of the sound and the camera departments.

When one scene is getting filmed, these crews are already preparing for the next one. This means that the filming process will face no problems, and if there are any, they will be easily solved ahead. After the crew prepares the equipment, the actors are already in their costumes, and they attend the makeup and hair departments.

The Actors

The actors will then rehearse the script with the director, and the other departments make their final tries or tweaks.  The assistant director then calls “picture is up” to let everyone know that the take is about to be recorded, a “quiet everyone” call then follows and once everyone is ready.

He then calls “roll sound” if that particular take involves sound and then the “roll cameras “call is called by the assistant director who is answered by “speed” from the camera operator once he starts recording. The assistant directors then call “action” once he makes sure everyone is ready. The take is over when the director calls “cut” and the sound stops and the cameras stop recording.

In the film production process, we see mise en scene representing the film production in every step or every setting or arrangement. It, therefore, refers to the staging and acting where it is well known that an actor can make or break a move, and it doesn’t matter how captivating the story is. It also refers to the lighting and setting of the production stage.

The setting creates a mode and also a sense of place and it can also reflect the emotional state of mind of the character. Lighting is essential in the production of a film, and there are different types of lighting, but each depends on where the lighting is coming from and the kind of illumination it is providing to the stage setting.

Costumes

Costumes are the only aspect of mise en scene that is easily noticeable by almost everybody. It includes makeup, hair, and clothes or wardrobe choices that are used to show the personality of the character. It is important that a costume designer chooses the costumes that will best convey the image, personality and emotional status of the character. Special effects are another aspect of mise en scene. They are used to make the film more interesting and captivating.

Mise-en-scène & Cinematography in American Beauty: Scene Analysis

This video uses two scenes from the movie American Beauty to show how elements of how cinematic techniques related to mise-en-scène and cinematography can be used to help visually tell a story.

This infograhic explains it all:

The 15 Points of Mise-en-Scene
Courtesy of ShoHawk.com 


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