Lateral Movement on Film

left_rightI watched an interesting video on No Film School on how the character’s lateral movement on screen matters in film. As I thought about my own screenplays I realized that it really does matter!

When I finished watching the video I thought about how I visualized my movie, and I don’t just mean the current version, I started with the original screenplay that takes place in Margaree (Cape Breton Island, Canada.) I automatically visualized the scenes as left to right when they were driving from Halifax to Glace Bay where they’re laughing and having fun. They get turned around at the bridge and start traveling left to right and that’s when the first problem arises, they drive too far. Because of the way the roads snake through the Margaree area and where I visualized camera placement to shoot the road trip, they were eventually moving left to right again and when they realize their mistake, they turn back and were now traveling right to left – and that’s when I used foreshadowing that something was not quite right… the gas station was deserted.

They continue travelling right to left stop at the Co-op grocery store and that’s when they have their first run-in with the infected and make a run for it – travelling right to left, and they have a second run in, and even more danger, at the Community Center. Again they travel on screen from right to left and that’s when the scene with the little zombie girl blocking the road happens. I visualized that as having the camera positioned to film them driving right to left. When they leave the cottage and head for what they mistakenly believe to be safety, they’re still moving right to left… and that’s when things turn really bad.

I visualized their escape up the stairs as running left to right, but going down into the cellar was right to left. Even the opening scene when she made her escape was left to right as she walks past where I visualized the camera being positioned for the opening sequence. As I thought about my original screenplay, ever scene that ended badly, the lateral movement was right to left – scenes where they escaped the infected the camera was positioned to film the scene with left to right lateral movement.

It gets better…

If you’ve been following along with my posts here and on on the public Dead Hunt Facebook Group, you know our Locations Manager secured us over 200 acres where we could shoot the movie. This of course meant some rewriting needed to be done because the new locations were on the opposite side of the island. As I wrote the new draft I thought of the best camera position to film their journey into the countryside and the best angle with the most scenic view would be moving right to left because that would put the Bras D’or Lakes in the background, but… as I visualized how it would look the scene felt a bit unnerving. I didn’t know why, but it felt as if they were traveling into danger even though those scenes do not have anything bad happening to our characters. So why did it feel more tense than the road trip in the original screenplay?

Right to left lateral movement and human psychology.

I think it’s interesting that in both versions of my screenplay I naturally visualized the characters as moving right to left for all the horrific and “heading into danger” scenes, and all the “non-danger” or “escaping danger” scenes I visualized as being filmed with left to right lateral movement. Needless to say, now that I watched that video and was made aware of the fact that lateral movement does invoke certain feelings, I’ll never be able to watch movies the same way again because I’ll be always be watching for lateral movement.

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