In his video essay on ‘Unconventional Framing,’ James Manning offers up some unconventional ways of directing and how they can be used to make your story jump off the screen using Mr. Robot as an example.
Watch the video essay
Break the conventional "rule of thirds"
Most directing styles frame by the “Rule of Thirds,” which basically means placing characters off to the left or right of frame slightly. Like this shot.
Mix up character placement or explore the visual space of your frame by placing characters in unconventional spots. Auteur directors make worlds seem unique, like this more interesting shot from Mr. Robot.
Develop characters through visuals
Where your characters fit in frame signals where they fit into the story. Elliot’s character in Mr. Robot is constantly in the lower third of the frame, highlighting his character’s isolation without a word of dialogue.
Visually relate your character’s’ traits and personality through their framing within scenes and sequences. Directing styles can add layers to the story’s script.
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Build theme through the frame
One of the many themes of Mr. Robot involves the disconnect between Elliot and the world around him. The unusual framing of dialog between characters is a great example of exploring theme through framing, and why Mr. Robot employs some of the best modern directors.
Avoid having your character SAY what they’re feeling or experiencing; show it through framing. Typical directing styles don’t do this, which puts a lot of stress on the writing.
Establish tone through film editing
Mr. Robot exists in its own world, and it shows. As soon as an episode starts, you can’t look away due to its quick editing.
Separating itself from all other film editing styles, Mr. Robot demands attention by jerking its viewers from scene to scene with the same energy of the plot.
Set the mood of your story, world, or characters by editing scenes in a novel way. Is your story or character unsettling? Make them appear unsettling.
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Framing can make or break your story, as can color palettes and film blocking. The director trademarks of Mr. Robot place its characters around the frame to achieve NEXT LEVEL storytelling only seen in mise en scene movies and TV.
Want to learn more storytelling through framing? Check out why the first and final frames in movies are so important.
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