Jean Cocteau: Five rules of filmmaking

Jean Cocteau 1Jean Cocteau, the father of cinematography (the term he preferred to “cinema”), hoped the future of motion pictures would become more creative, more personal, as the mechanic means of shooting them became less costly for young filmmakers to take advantage of.

He praised the 16mm camera as a tool for youth to practice making movies with. Given the low price of digital cameras today, Cocteau would surely share much of the same advice printed below.

Here are five rules of cinematic craftsmanship Cocteau imparted to young filmmakers in St. Cinema des Pres, No. 2, 1950:

1.  “Don’t neglect the language.  Cinematography hates confusion.  A close-up is the mask of classical tragedy.  The script also goes under the microscope.”

2.  “Always choose the warmest scene, even if the framing is less perfect or if it shows the shadow of the boom.”

3.  “Everything jumps out through the camera, the atmosphere of the set as much as the rest.  You can sense a unit’s bad temper on the screen.  Keep your team in good spirits.”

4.  “Once I have chosen an angle with the cameraman, I almost always follow the scene from a quite different one, so that I am surprised by the rushes.”

5.  “The cameraman is our real aide.”

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