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The Beauty of the Continuous Shot

Recently at CineMavericks, I have taken students through a few cinematic techniques, from jump cuts to using diegetic sounds as music. There are so many ways to tell a story, and getting to know the different tools that are accessible to us as filmmakers can really expand our imaginations.

I wanted to share with you one of my personal favorites, which is the continuous shot. One of my early cinematic inspirations has been Terrence Malick's "The New World", an underrated live action recounting of Pocahontas. While studying for my master's degree in Cultural Studies at the #UniversityofEdinburgh, I was very interested in the architecture of spaces. I wanted to see how that can be translated into narrative storytelling, and felt that this scene below illustrated a wonderful use of space in film:

In an essay, I wrote: "Terrence Malick's films behave like visual essays. The viewer is immersed in philosophical wonder rather than in narrative entertainment. The rhythm of his films lies in the constantly moving cinematography, which relies on natural lighting. Malick brings out the beauty in everyday details, and continuously searches for what is good in nature. The ending of his historical drama is no exception."

Continuous shots have the benefit of immersing the viewer into the world of their stories, and when you feature compelling characters, it's the perfect way to see the world alongside them.

The "Oner" Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Another filmmaking auteur that I admire and often use as inpsiration for my own films, is Director PT Anderson. In this video, you will see how he uses the one-take tool to introduce us to various characters at once. What's beautiful in these scenes is that it feels like we're taken on a journey. The director will always make sure that you know where to look, and who to follow. So, it makes it so easy to sit back, and let the visuals guide us to the heart of the story.

Here, you'll see that there are also the arhictectural mockups, which help visualise how the camera movements were organised. As you can imagine, just doing one take of this shot takes almost the whole day, as there are so many extras and sets to orchestrate! What's really nice about this style too, is you can see how the cinematography interacts with other deparments: production design (the sets), the cast (main and background), the lighting, the costumes, and the list goes on. It's the magical collaboration between all these elements that make this achievement so thrilling to watch. I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did!


We encourage all levels to expose themselves to home filmmaking, because through this medium they can improve soft skills like communication & collaboration.

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