The Fifteen Points of Mise en Scene

By Michael Hall, posted 19 September 2016

Deep focus mise en scene from Citizen Kane.

When it comes to a making a movie, the arrangement of a scene has a huge impact on the audience's perspective. If the audience is intended to feel a particular emotion, or notice a particular detail, mise en scene visually does the work. Without putting proper thought into these aspects, many key opportunities are missed, thus lowering the value of the scene and reducing its potential. It is important to pay attention to detail, no matter how insignificant it may seem. The layout of a shot gives it power and speaks volumes. Mise en scene allows the film to make statements and ideas without needing obvious, forced scenes full of information. A script receives its full value when mise en scene is properly utilized.

Mise en scene is the arrangement of a scene or a setting in a movie, play, or other production. Mise en scene involves everything seen before the camera - the set, the lighting, the directions, the costumes, the actors, the props - every detail the audience can see. Mise en scene is meant to envelop the audience and bathe them in reality. How can a production be believable without the natural details? Analyzing mise en scene in movies is important in order to grasp the idea behind each and every fine detail. With every motion and prop there is a deliberate purpose. Can you tell what it is? How does it affect perspective on the characters? Is the movie drawing the focus onto a particular aspect? Does this seem relevant? Will it end up being relevant? How did the camera angle affect the outcome of the scene? What lens was used to shoot? In the following piece, we are going to explore the fifteenpoints of mise en scene that are absolutely necessary to think about. These points include: dominance, lighting, shot and camera proxemics, camera angle, color values, lens/filter/stock, subsidiary contrasts, density, composition, form, framing, depth of field, character placement, staging positions, and character proxemics. Throughout these fifteen points, we will explore what catches the eye in a shot, how lighting effects the audience's perspective, how the shot's proximity matters as well as the angle, the importance of color, what lenses are best, proper organization, framing, location of the characters, and a great deal more. Carrying through the examples and explanations will be a shot from Ghost World, a film created in 2001. This image provides an excellent basis off of which the fifteen points can be formed and explained utilizing a visual representation. This image allows the ability to ask questions about something already existent, in order to provide a better sense of the effects of the ideas discussed. For example, we will assess the lighting in the shot provided and how it affects the film's genre.

Reader Comments

More Posts

Clint Eastwood Gives the Cinema Masterclass at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival

The Master Class is an annual festival fixture in which a respected film practitioner is invited to talk about their approach and their body of work. Watch Clint Eastwood give the 2017 edition.

22-May-2017  • 

How to Film Safely at Height

Leila Jones looks at the regulations and best practice approaches to keeping your crew (and yourself) safe when filming at heights.

16-May-2017  •  Leila Jones

Behind the Scenes With the New RED Weapon 8K Camera on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

Go behind the scenes with Guardians' Director James Gunn and Director of Photography Henry Braham, BSC as they discuss their vision for the movie and the experience they wanted to give viewers.

8-May-2017  •  Benjamin Craig

The Economist Thinks We've Reached 'Peak Indie'

Anyone working in the indie scene over the past few years will have noted the paradox that now exists between the exponential increase in the availability of new distribution platforms and the ever-increasing difficulty for indie films to recoup their budgets.

3-Mar-2017  •  Benjamin Craig

Pixar in a Box - Free 9 Part Course in Storytelling

Khan Academy has teamed up with the master storysmiths at Pixar to provide a video course in the art of storytelling. And if that wasn't cool enough, the whole course is available for free.

16-Feb-2017  •  Benjamin Craig