“Use silhouettes to define characters and situations in an elegant, crystallized visual portrait.”

In a No Film School blog post, Max Winter talks about the way cinematographer Roger Deakins exploits light to “tell a story more fruitfully.” Winter bases his observations on a video essay done by H. Perry Horton.

Several highlights

Build gravity. Deakins uses silhouettes to help the audience understand the deep significance of a simple moment.

Heighten drama. A scene shot in silhouette can “push tension to the breaking point.” Too many details would distract.

Show the weight characters carry. “Consider the silhouette for stories in which morality plays a huge part.”

Applications for Storytelling

How can writers use these film techniques to improve their stories, their character development?

Too many details can distract. Write a scene in stark simplicity. Avoid background details. Center on the character to build tension.

Filmmakers use the extreme close-up for deeply emotional moments. When your book character comes face-to-face with emotion, write the scene simply. Focus only on what your character is feeling, seeing. The writing equivalent of an out-of-focus background. Little or no ambient sound. Describe your character’s face. Describe a simple, telling action.

Maybe it’s all about pacing. Deep emotion requires pinpoint focus.