Cinematic Storytelling : A Comprehensive Guide for Directors and Cinematographers book cover
1st Edition

Cinematic Storytelling
A Comprehensive Guide for Directors and Cinematographers

ISBN 9780367531430
Published August 26, 2021 by Focal Press
252 Pages 80 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This book presents a new, story-based approach to cinematic coverage and storytelling in film and video. It breaks from the conventional idea that shots are the fundamental unit of filmmaking, instead exploring the specifics of determining coverage. Keyframes in patterns are introduced, delivering scripted material in a context-rich presentation that supports the storytelling.

All the analysis, interpretation, and creative decision making is done first, with shots derived as the very last step. Scripted material is divided into six categories with associated patterns. Like cinematic building blocks, these can freely stack up and interconnect, supporting creativity and avoiding rigid formulas. This approach enables filmmakers to tap into the film "language" that audiences already understand and put it to practical use, helping the audience to feel the storytelling deeply. Dozens of film examples are provided throughout, plus conceptual and camera diagrams to contextualize the methods presented, and exercises are provided to reinforce concepts. Emphasis is placed on supporting performance and story meaning through a cinematic context. With all the concepts and decision-making options described and shown in examples, a scripted scene is analyzed and developed through an eight-step process, illustrated with storyboard, camera diagrams, and ultimately shot list descriptions.

The book is ideal for filmmaking students interested in directing and cinematography, as well as aspiring and early-career filmmakers, cinematographers, and directors.

Table of Contents



Table of Contents

Table of Illustrations

Chapter 1: What is cinematic storytelling?

Chapter 2: Foundations in the script

Chapter 3: Coverage defines attention

Chapter 4: Cinematic thinking

Chapter 5: Patterns for Character Actions

Chapter 6: Patterns for Character Looks

Chapter 7: Patterns for Dialogue – structure

Chapter 8: Patterns for Dialogue – examples

Chapter 9: Patterns for Settings

Chapter 10: Patterns for Objects

Chapter 11: Patterns for Evocative Imagery

Chapter 12: Patterns and movement

Chapter 13: Scene shaping and interconnections

Chapter 14: Developing the coverage plan

Reference Materials



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Thomas Robotham teaches screenwriting, filmmaking, and cinematography. He is currently Affiliated Faculty at Emerson College, and Director of Photography (DP) in the International Cinematographers Guild. He holds a patent in light-emitting diode (LED) lighting for film and video. Thomas has also worked as a Creative Director (advertising) and as a fine artist (sculpture).


'A refreshing revision of the filmmaker’s visualization process that describes the essential creative choices for directors and cinematographers alike when determining coverage and cinematic storytelling.'

Charlie Egleston
, Filmmaker and Professor of Film Production, Fanshawe College

'Cinematic Storytelling is an exceptional book on directing and cinematography for it provides the tools on how to tell cinematic stories visually, in ways that will reach an audience. A close study of this text and consistent practice of these principles will shift any amateur or student filmmaker into the professional realm. We may know how to "read" a movie, but directors and cinematographers need the tools to understand how to do it.'

Kurt Lancaster, Professor and Program Lead, Creative Media and Film, Northern Arizona University. Author of Basic Cinematography and DSLR Cinema.