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Money Shot

Money Shot

In this week’s Friday Fundas I chose to discuss an interesting part in a movie or something the producers look for in a script. This is called Money shot or a Payoff shot.

Originally the money shot was a term referred to the shots for which maximum money was spent. This term was mainly used in the pornographic movies. However later this term was used for mainstream genre of movies and also changed its meaning to relate to the shot in a movie which had the most commercial value of the movie. This is the shot after seeing which the audience says “Paisa vasool” (worth the money spent). This has also become a standard practice when reviewing a script the producers look for the money shot which usually is the most dramatic part of the movie. This need not be restricted to the shots with the greatest special effects. Also this shot need not occur in the climax of the movie.

Jake jumps on to Toruk and connects his mind to it to become Toruk Makto
Jake jumps on to Toruk and connects his mind to it to become Toruk Makto

Let us look at some of the examples, in the English movie Avatar the sequence in which Jake connects his mind to the Toruk is the most high point of the entire narration and this would be the money shot of the movie in my opinion.

The bomb scene in the movie swordfish
The bomb scene in the movie swordfish

In the English movie swordfish the bomb blast scene is a very well shot scene and it is the money shot of the movie.

Skydiving scene in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
Skydiving scene in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

This also applies to Indian movies as well. In the Hindi movie Zindagi Naa Milegi Dobara the sky diving scene of the 3 friends is the money shot of the movie.

Baasha Medical College scene
Baasha Medical College scene

In the Tamil movie Baasha the medical college sequence is the money shot of the movie. This shot occurs in the first half of the movie. This does not have any great visual effects but the high point in utilizing the potential of the star value of Rajinikanth makes this one the money shot of the movie.

Identifying your money shot in the movie is very much important. Every successful movie has a money shot, but every movie with a money shot need not be successful as the success depends on the entire movie and the money shot being the highest point of the movie which elates the audience.

Friday Fundas: Types of Shots in movies

Friday Fundas: Types of Shots in movies

Based on the distance of the camera from the object the types of shots can be broadly classified into the following categories

  • Close up / Extreme Close up Shot (CU/ECU)
  • Medium Close up Shot (MCU)
  • Medium Shot (MS)
  • Medium Long Shot (MLS)
  • Long Shot (LS)
  • Extreme Long Shot (ELS)

The type of shots are mentioned in the shooting script of a scene. This is determined by the director and cinematographer. Let us look at some examples of the shots from popular English movies

Close up / Extreme Close up: Camera is so close to the object that it fills the entire screen. These shots are used to stress the importance of a character or a moment in the film. The close up shot of the eyes of Uma Thurman in Kill Bill emphasizes her sharp focus and alertness in the fight sequence

Extreme Close up shot
Extreme Close up shot – from Kill Bill

Medium Close up Shot: Close up of one or more characters including their shoulders and head is an example for this shot. This is used mainly when focusing on conversation and dialogues between the characters. Some of the most powerful dialogues in The Dark Knight from Joker has been taken as a Medium Close up Shot.

Medium Close up Shot
Medium Close up Shot from The Dark Knight

Medium Shot: The shot is generally from Waist up or knees down for a character. Usually the character occupies two thirds of the screen. This is mainly used in indoor sequences placing emphasis on a character or relationship between two characters. The medium shot from Amazing spider man when Peter Parker is in his high school is an example of this shot. This shot reveals the physical state of Peter Parker and his feelings for Gwen Stacy.

Medium Shot
Medium Shot from Amazing Spiderman

Medium Long Shot: This shot is between the Medium and Long shot. This reveals almost full length of a character and is used to reveal the relation of the surroundings to the character. The character is usually in the middle of the frame. The focus is also on the entire attire of a character. The shot of Clint Eastwood’s appearance in the movie The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is an example of this shot.

Medium Long Shot
Medium Long Shot from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Long Shot: The characters or object is in full view of the camera and they are seen along with the surroundings. Most of the Action sequences are taken as long shot. The scene from Expendables 2 is an example of this shot. This used a lot of long shots to give importance to the ensemble rather than the single character.

Long Shot
Long Shot from The Expendables 2

Extreme Long Shot: The subject and the characters become the background to the shot and the environment takes precedence over the objects. This is used to reveal the entire atmosphere. Movies like Avatar, Hobbit, Gravity, Jurassic Park used a lot of Extreme long shots to make the audience acclimatized to the environment.

Extreme Close up shot
Extreme long shot from Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Lot of thoughts go in before capturing the visual into a frame. Each shot would place different emphasis on the characters, emotions and surroundings. All these contribute to the viewing experience of the audience. Next time when you are watching a movie, check out for the kind of shots used in various situations.

Epistolary Movies

Epistolary Movies – The term is based epistolary novels. This refers to a particular style of writing the screenplay. In this style the story is narrated as a series of letters or diary entries. In the modern day this could be a series of text, audio or video blogs.

Writers used this technique mainly to avoid a third person narrative in their scripts. This gives the opportunity for the writer to narrate the story in first person. Many popular movies have employed this technique either completely or in parts to make an effective screenplay. The recent movie The Lunchbox is an epistolary movie script where the main plot moves through the exchange of letters between the lead characters. James Cameron had used this in Avatar for narrating the incidents on the Pandora Island through the protagonist’s video blog. Ghajini is an example of epistolary script which is through a list of diary entries. In comparison to a character narrating it to the audience or another character this gives a more realistic and effective timeline jumps as it covers only highlights which are inherent nature of letters or diary entries.

Friday Fundas: Inspiration for Avatar

In the 2009 hollywood blockbuster Avatar the Na’vi’s the inhabitants of Pandora had a blue body, tall, with four fingers in each of their hand. In a 2007 interview with Time magazine, James Cameron  said “The name Avatar is an incarnation of one of the Hindu gods taking a flesh form. In this film what that means is that the human technology in the future is capable of injecting a human’s intelligence into a remotely located body, a biological body.” His inspiration for this appearance of the Na’vi was from a dream his mother had. She had seen a blue skinned woman who was 12 feet tall which he considered to be apt for Na’vis.  He said ” I just like blue. It’s a good color … plus, there’s a connection to the Hindu deities, which I like conceptually.”

The floating “Hallelujah Mountains”, was an inspiration from the karst limestone formations in China. According to production designer Dylan Cole, the fictional floating rocks were inspired by Mount Huang (also known as Huangshan), Guilin, Zhangjiajie. James Cameron had noted the influence of the Chinese peaks on the design of the floating mountains.

Cameron said  “the Na’vi represent something that is our higher selves, or our aspirational selves, what we would like to think we are” and that even though there are good humans within the film, the humans “represent what we know to be the parts of ourselves that are trashing our world and maybe condemning ourselves to a grim future”

Source: Wikipedia

The movie was a treat to watch and the one that had re-defined the movie experience for the audience…!