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Learn How To Break the Rules of Filmmaking Like a Pro

Breaking the rules of cinema — with intention — can surprise and engage your audience on an emotional level.

Master the rules of filmmaking so you can know when to break them. Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 movie, ‘Drive,’ was filmed in quadrants, breaking the rule of thirds in an artful way.
Master the rules of filmmaking so you can know when to break them. Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 movie, ‘Drive,’ was filmed in quadrants, breaking the rule of thirds in an artful way.

We’ve all been there. The commercial that falls flat. The screenplay that won’t leave the page. The video that doesn’t engage with its audience. With so many creative choices to make, there are a lot of reasons why a specific project might or might not work, which is why it’s vital for filmmakers to have a set of rules to help guide the process.

But sometimes — to deepen emotion, or get a bigger laugh — the rules are meant to be broken. The trick, however, is to break them with intention. That means you need to understand the rules you’re breaking so you can do it in a way that will surprise and engage your audience on an emotional level instead of producing an eye-roll. Over at Videomaker magazine, Tiffany Harness takes a hard look at some of the conventional rules of filmmaking, the functions they perform, and when it’s okay to break them like the pros:

“Some filmmakers follow the rules so deftly that everything they create seems to be golden. The storyline offers three acts and five turning points chronologically. The actors are beauties who meet the status quo. They use the rule of thirds in every frame. They honor the 180-degree rule. Lastly, the story wraps up nicely, usually with a happy or expected ending, leaving us satisfied and relieved.

“Others are constantly pushing the envelope. Their names become synonymous with unconventional and their audiences show up for it. It’s critical to pay attention to every scene so that we don’t miss a plot twist. The actors and characters are odd or striking. Fourth wall, what fourth wall? The cinematography is anything but standard. We walk away feeling unsettled and we love it.”

Read more: How to break the rules of filmmaking to evoke emotions (Videomaker magazine)

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