Aside from compelling characters, where the film is set is a vital component of a captivating story. Major studio-produced films oftentimes have the financial resources to shoot in multiple locations as well as international cities; on the other hand, independent films oftentimes do not have that advantage. But worry not, filmmakers have found amazing ways to utilize single locations to tell stories with the limited resources they have.
One such tool in their bag is single-location shooting. It’s a powerful tool to tell stories of any shape and size. Let’s explore the different techniques on how you can create big and meaningful stories set in one location.
It’s All in the Details
Here are some of the ways you can utilize single locations to creatively tell stories, and increase tension, suspense, and action throughout the film:
The lifeline of every story is its characters. When filming in a single location, focusing on developing multi-dimensional and dynamic characters is imperative because they are the core element that will add uniqueness, creativity, and life to the scene. For instance, the Hollywood classic 12 Angry Men (1957) is a prime example of an excellent one-location film that has diverse and complex characters that carried the weight of the entire film despite being shot only in a small room.
The next important element is the composition of shots or overall cinematography. The aesthetics, placement of cameras, and type of angles used are crucial in adding depth and complexity to a single location or confined spaces. For instance, the use of wide angles could emphasize what the character feels whether it’s being isolated or lonely in a huge space as well as using close-up shots could build tension and reveal important details that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats.
Location, Location, Location
As much as characters are important, the location itself can serve as one of the characters in a story. When shooting in a single location, it’s beneficial to choose a place where there are a lot of interesting things that could happen. Also, this gives a context to the audience of what kind of environment or surrounding the characters are situated in. Doing so will establish and provide more information that will allow the audience to understand and make sense of what and how big of a conflict that the characters are dealing with. For instance, choosing a particular place that is located in New York would instantly give us a quick understanding of the culture, identity, and atmosphere of the story.
Having a meticulously designed set and proper lighting can do wonders for a place. Every detail such as colors, paintings, pictures, furniture, and amount of light can tell us important information about the character as well as it effectively sets the tone of the scene. For instance, in thriller or horror films, we see a lot of darkness or low lighting to heighten conflict and suspense because we do not see what is coming for us.
Opting to shoot in one location may seem limiting to creativity but it’s actually a powerful tool to tell engaging and enthralling stories when done correctly. You don’t always need panoramic views or multiple places to create great cinema as proven by the numerous award-winning single-location films such as Rear Window (1954), 12 Angry Men (1957), Locke (2013), Room (2015), and even TV shows such as Room 104 (2017). It all comes down to the details, a bit of imagination, as well as variety and uniqueness of the characters to have the same impact as films shot in multiple locations. This can be a great opportunity for emerging filmmakers to showcase their talent and voice to an audience and the entertainment industry.
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.