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03/01/2006: Try Angles
Hi! I went back to college last night. I was invited to speak to a UCLA Extension course. It was a class that was specifically for people writing spec scripts. For those of you in the LA area, this kind of class is the sort of thing you should look to for info, encouragement, and a community of people any one of whom could get hired and turn into your friend in the business at any moment.
Anyway, I had a blast. Then I couldn't find my car in the parking structure. I'm standing there in the middle of the structure, looking off to one side, craning, pressing the beep-button. I can hear my car beeping, but I can't tell where it's coming from. ANGLE ON: My car. I'm clearly visible in the b.g., standing right behind it, looking the wrong way.
Did'ja see that? That was an ANGLE ON. It's a way to focus the viewer's (or reader's) attention on something by specifying a shot. Sometimes it can be very useful.
The use of ANGLE ON is pretty loose. And sometimes I use "ANOTHER ANGLE REVEALS" instead. This is one of those things that writers tend to learn just by noticing how other writers are using them, so they aren't always terribly consistent. Here are some examples of places where you might use ANGLE ON.
This one is adapted from a script I wrote. Buffy is in the middle of a long speech. Unless I tell the reader otherwise, they're going to assume the camera is on her.
...more than just a battle. It's going to be a battle like we've never seen before...
ANGLE ON WILLOW, watching Buffy talk. Willow looks really bored.
Here's another situation in which it's useful to specify the angle:
For god's sake! How can anyone be thinking about their social life? We're about to fight the original, most primal evil, and these girls are all in mortal danger!
ANGLE ON GILES from some distance away... someone's POV.
By suddenly cutting to this distant angle, it's clear that someone as yet unrevealed is watching Giles.
Sometimes I use it if I don't want to reveal the location of the scene yet. I'll start with a CLOSE ON or an ANGLE ON a character, then later WIDEN TO REVEAL where they are.
And sometimes I use it when I have two things happening in the same set. For example, if there is a big party scene in which I'm alternating chunks of dialogue taking place between two different couples in different parts of a set. I can't use a new slug line in this situation because I'm staying in the same set, so I'll use ANGLE ON to switch between the two conversations. "ANGLE ON Jim and Tammy over by the fireplace," like that.
I think you can see that any time it's useful to move or focus the reader's attention, you've got the option of using an ANGLE ON. But use it sparingly. Picking the shots is the director's job. That's why ANGLE is only one letter different than ANG LEE.
Lunch: I had the Enchiladas Verduras at Mexicali on Ventura here in L.A. Love that tomatilla sauce!