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Lens Plot - Three Ways to Enhance Visual Interest in Film

Lianne McNally

Documentary filmmaker Lianne McNally earned an Academy Award nomination for her short-form documentary Artists and Orphans: A True Drama. Lianne McNally, who has also produced a range of advocacy and promotional films for nonprofit organizations, is known for her passion for the art of cinematography.

“Lens plot” is a technique that helps a filmmaker break free of the literal elements of cinematography by making thoughtful choices about how to frame, light, and shoot each piece of a film to create a narrative whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Referring to a consistent group of parameters that apply to an entire film, thus giving a film its overall look, static lens plot is the simplest of three ways to describe the use of lens plot in a film. To illustrate: A filmmaker might choose to shoot all characters in profile at key plot moments or create symmetrical “frames” of significant buildings in the story.
Narrative lens plot refers to a filmmaker’s decision to let the look of a film change as the narrative progresses to convey changes of texture and mood, for example, by altering the depth of focus to create a more expansive, or more claustrophobic, feel.
An elemental lens plot allows a filmmaker to create distinct leitmotifs for characters and settings through giving each its own set of guidelines for how it should look. One way to achieve this is by using various colors and grades of stock.

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