Settings Tell the Story

Why do filmmakers make the setting choices they do? I spent some time this afternoon at one of the locations for our upcoming short film, Street Language.

Why do filmmakers make the setting choices they do?

I spent some time this afternoon at one of the locations for our upcoming short film, Street Language. I am thinking of how this particular location, a miniature dollhouse shop, helps me introduce my main character and opening value of his journey. The opening value is a key piece of information you must give the audience; your protagonist’s journey depends on this starting point. Remember, a film is the story of a journey of change told through conflict, to quote a number of screenwriting gurus.

In our film I wanted a unique setting, something an audience won’t see every day, and something that gives me a visual way to establish aspects of my character’s mood, mission, etc. Playing against type a bit, I am placing Jacob, my Protagonist, in a miniature dollhouse shop. Jacob is a young man, and a street kid – not what you might think of as a dollhouse customer. But he works as a night janitor in the shop, which for him becomes a sort of refuge, a fantasy world of perfect homes. The opening value of my film is peace, found in this fantasy world, apart from normal human relationships. Jacob’s journey in the film is to discover the value of connecting with another person. At the beginning of the film he is isolated, alone, and unknown. By the end of our short film we must see him change, to open up in some way, or to close up further, if the story is a tragedy or dark vision of life.

So, today I’m storyboarding images that establish Jacob’s starting point – a peaceful fantasy world, isolated from real human relationships. I could have set the opening scenes in a warehouse, a deserted tenement, the desert, and accomplished something similar. But I like the visual choices and images that I can create in a miniatures shop. I hope the audience connects immediately and is intrigued to know and understand more about Jacob. In a short film I have to pull them in very quickly, so this is my plan.

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