October 27th, 2023
As a cinematographer I've done a lot of script breakdowns for TVC's, music video's and (short) films. Even with some documentary work, a certain form of a breakdown is often done. One breakdown form is often called a technical breakdown. These are important and particularly useful when shooting complicated scenes, sequences and/or shots.
And this may sound weird, but I often do this (at one point or another during the pre-production phase) with LEGO and other kid toys within a Co-Creation session; collaborating with important stakeholders, such as the Camera and (heads of the) G&E departments, the director, producer and sometimes the client.
NOTE: You don't want to waste anyone's time. So, it's probably a good thing to think about who you really need for these kinds of breakdown sessions. You can also do several with separate stakeholders, before bringing everyone together in one bigger session.
Overall, by doing this with LEGO's, it will create a playful dynamic for the collaboration process. Everyone is able to get into a creative mindset easier and it also creates a certain form of ownership between the collaborators early on in the process for the film you're going to make. And last but not least: It's can also be a lot of fun.
A session could go like this:
By 'playing' with these LEGO bricks, I am able to show everyone what kind of movements I have in mind for a shot. I can literally show, motivate and elaborate on every single movement in a shot, by demonstrating it with LEGO's. From the camera movements themselves, to everything that moves in front to it; Where will the talents be? Where will certain cars drive by? How will the light be shaped? How will the lights (and shadows) move? Etc. What happens when within the frame and outside the frame? Who and what is where and why and at what given time? What type of gear is needed for these shot(s) and why?
Once I'm finished showing things from my (cinematographic/technical) point of view, we can discuss it further and/or come up with new (hopefully better!) ideas and/or develop them further by co-creating with all these different departments. I let the grip department show and tell their ideas on my initial plan, make suggestions for improvements, tweak it here and there to make it more tangible, etc.
Basically, the LEGO bricks on the table become a Conversation Piece. Ideally, the co-creation breakdown sessions become half a RECCE (well, a first step towards a real one), that costs next to nothing. It's a great way of getting some of the main issues out of the way early on in the pre-production phase since you're basically 'Protoyping' your principal photography. See what works and what does not, with a few LEGO sessions, before eventually visiting the location for a RECCE.
NOTE: On a RECCE and during Principal Photography you can also bring LEGO's or other 'props' with you. On those moments, it is mainly to insure everyone on set is on the same page on what's about to happen. Especially during Principal Photography there's less －often no－ room left to adjust major things.
Co-Creation sessions as mentioned in this blog, should happen earlier on, during pre-production. Sometimes before, sometimes after Previs. And often both.
When you do these LEGO sessions right, it not only gives you an early insight into the possible look & feel of your film from a technical perspective, it also gives you (and e.g. the producer and director) an early idea of how much a specific segment is likely going to cost, meaning you can solve technical, creative and budget issues together within a creative co-creation setting.
In my previous post I shared our upcoming short film 'Get in'. I've already started with LEGO's on it on my own. Just to run a few first ideas through my head. And we'll be playing with these LEGO's with other collaborators on this project, soon enough. Usually I do this from my perspective as a cinematographer. Especially when it comes to a technical breakdown. This time however, I'm doing it as a director.
Looking forward to it already.