Visual Emotion Is In The Detail

Go ahead, cry your heart out. A blunt visual representation of a certain emotion (like the image of a crying baby) may have the desired effect of making your viewers recognize what it is you want them to feel, but it’s only when you let the emotion live in the details of your shot, that they will really feel all the feels

CineFix dives into the holy grail of filmmaking in this video essay on emotion and try to pin-point three distinct ways of visually imbuing a scene with emotion.


The biggest take-away from this essay is detail. The old adage goes “show it, don’t tell it” and there is certainly truth to that. But it’s a simplification. Because the reason we want to show it – the emptiness, the loneliness, the juxtapositions, the flaws, the hope, the despair – is that we are telling a story. And stories, no matter how many times they are told, are much better if you let your listener (or in this case your viewer) fill in the blanks and allow their feelings to shape the narrative.

So let this be not just a lesson in cinematography and directing, but also in screenwriting. Write around the obvious and let the emotion live in the unwritten layers.

h/t CineFix

Mads Black

About Mads Black

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Mads is a Scandinavian-born, Los Angeles-based actor and aspiring film maker. He's dabbled in stunt driving (no one got hurt) and once rescued a baby bunny from his garage.

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