Shooting a vignette with Nehemias Colindres

Shooting a vignette with Nehemias Colindres

Photographer and filmmaker, Nehemias Colindres, shares his top three tutorials for shooting movies: shooting a vignette, filmmaker advice and through a lens.

The shooting of a scene, or “vignette” as it's known in the commercial world, takes careful planning and an understanding that comes with practice.

Once you have created your mood-boards (visual examples which represent what you are looking to achieve) and treatments (the written description of what is going to take place in the vignette) you should be clear on what you’re aiming to achieve.

Map out each shot by creating a storyboard, bearing in mind the lens you want to use for the shot. Don't worry about not being able to draw, even just sketching roughly can really help you visualise the finished vignette.

Screen grabs from other films you think work well can also be good for reference. Remember, this is not stealing; after all we are all influenced by each other. You’re never going to re-invent the art of film but you can add your chapter to its story.

Before shooting anything, it’s best to go through the camera movement and break it down into marks and be clear on what you wish to achieve in the scene.

From there you need to walk through the scene with your actors. Depending on the quality of actors I either simplify the task or work with them and challenge them to bring something to the table themselves. No matter the experience level, it is your job to give them an emotional or mental goal.

They need to understand what state to be in. I like to guide the actor through the scene but allow a flowing observation from camera. From there I push myself to look for certain shots, and sometimes I even find some unexpected gold that I hadn’t planned. 

After shooting my scene in one take, I do pick up shots of certain details that can give the scene a different element. The choice is up to your style and dependent on the type of film you’re making. 

Next I set up a portrait. Portraits can breathe life into your work but you have to be able to make the actor or subject feel comfortable. Give them little tips, I usually tell an actor to look away, take a deep breath and turn to the camera and exhale. If that doesn't give me the desired look, I change their position and have them do a variation of looks. At some point like most shots if you don't get it after a few takes then you might as well cut your losses. 

Finally, your vignette needs to be broken down enough that you have options once you get to the editing stage. You may like it as one take or if you are a more experienced editor, you can bring your own style to the table. 

It's important to have control of every aspect but it also important to know when to let go and give some freedom to those around you, from your subjects to the incidental events that take place.

Remember, a good filmmaker is only as good as the thought-process and planning that goes into their films.