Similar to themes, motifs often speak to issues happening beneath the surface of the film. But while themes in films are repeated ideas and concepts, motifs are repeated elements. Movie motifs can be colors, patterns, editing styles, shapes, and more. Specific examples of motifs in Hollywood films are given in this filmmaking tutorial.
- Related to themes is the idea of using a motif.…Often these terms are used interchangeably,…but technically a theme is a repeated idea,…whereas a motif is usually a repeated element.…A motif might come in the form of a color, image,…editing style, or something else.…One of my favorite motifs in cinema…is the way Alfred Hitchcock used division…to symbolize psychosis in Psycho.…The film starts off with Marion Crane…who just stole a bunch of money from the company…that she works for,…now she's our protagonist thus far,…but Hitchcock encourages us as the audience…to oscillate between identifying with her,…and thinking that she's kinda slimy,…and thus the theme of psychosis is already introduced,…and so Hitchcock introduces the motif of mirrors,…and why would he angle the camera like this?…It's to reinforce this idea of a split personality,…of two sides of the same person.…
When Norman Bates is cleaning up the murder scene…we see him reflected in the mirror,…we see it again even more blatantly as Norman Bates…is being investigated.…
Watch and learn how to shoot a script, using visual motifs, atmospherics, framing, and different types of shots to tell the film's story. Find out how to give direction to your crew and be a good leader, while staying on budget and on schedule. Plus, get tips to improve shots during retakes or in post, and to become a better director, storyteller, and communicator.
Note: Like the rest of the Creating a Short Film series, this course was shot during the production of The Assurance. It offers a unique window into the actual struggles and challenges filmmakers have to overcome to get films made. Find the rest of the courses in the series on Chad's author page.
- What a director does
- Interpreting the script
- Scouting locations
- Choosing the tone and theme of the film
- Using motifs
- Shaping the story through visuals
- Being a good leader on set
- Respecting budgets and schedules
- Planning shots
- Moving the camera: on a tripod or dolly or in handheld shots
- Using rolling takes
- Framing shots
- Adding atmospherics
- Directing in post-production
- Becoming a better director
Skill Level Intermediate
Creating a Short Film: 04 Working with Actorswith Chad Perkins1h 49m Intermediate
Creating a Short Film: 01 Producingwith Chad Perkins1h 6m Intermediate
Creating a Short Film: 02 Writingwith Chad Perkins3h 17m Intermediate
1. Preparing for Production
2. Themes and Tone
3. Shaping the Story
4. Running the Set
5. Planning Shots in a Scene
6. Getting the Shot
7. Improving the Shot
8. Directing in Post-Production
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