The Geography of Action Sequences

A little while back, there was a great post over at Mark Kennedy’s blog all about using geography well in action sequences.  He uses the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones and Marion try to commandeer the Nazi plane as an example.  Here’s a brief excerpt as he sets up the importance of geography in action sequences:

Geography is an important but rarely used device that is the key to making any action sequence work. No action sequence will have any real tension to it unless we know exactly where everything is at all times: where the hero is in relation to his objective, how close or far away he is from his goal, what obstacles are at play and where they are in relation to the hero in the scene.

I tried to keep this in mind while writing and planning this month’s film.  It was far harder then I imagined it would be and I feel like I’m learning a lot re-reading Mark’s post having just shot an action sequence and now reflecting on that sequence as I cut the film.  I think I succeeded in some scenes and fell short in others.  I know at times during the pre-production and especially the production itself, I spent more time focusing on what action was going to be taking place and how we were going to shoot it in a way that the action is communicated then I did on how the locations and individual shots informed the audience as to where the protagonist was in space.  Knowing where he is in space (as the above quote mentions) is key to building a stronger tension within the sequence.  I feel like at times, that tension is a lot stronger then others and I think it directly relates to how the geography of the sequence was (or wasn’t) clearly set-up and communicated.

Now then, I’m not trying to knock this film before it’s finished and I’m not trying to say that it’s terrible and that you shouldn’t expect to enjoy it.  I’m actually pretty proud of it and can’t wait for it to be done so I can share it with you.  Rather, I was more just taking a moment to reflect on the film and the thought-process I took in planning and producing it (in terms of using geography as a story-telling tool); and look at it with a critical eye.

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