Process Film - Chess Scene: The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)


The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) was directed and produced by Norman Jewison. The stars are Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. 

McQueen plays Thomas Crown, a very wealthy man who stages a bank heist near his mansion in Boston for the thrill of it. Faye Dunaway plays Vicki, an insurance investigator, who suspects Crown but also finds herself falling in love with him. 

The chess scene (above) happens at a crucial moment, after Crown invites Vicki to his mansion for the first time. As she explores his study (for clues?, because she is fascinated by this enigmatic man?), he watches from behind his chess set. He asks her, "Do you play?" and she responds "Try me." 

The music for The Thomas Crown Affair, including this unforgettable sequence, was composed by Michel Legrand. Legend has it that Legrand, Jewison and editor Hal Ashby cut the picture and sound working together. 

Near the end of his life, I met Hal Ashby. He was, and remains one of my favorite filmmakers. We never talked about this scene. I regret that.

For giggles: Here is the spoof of this scene from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged me:

Undergraduate Producing Homework Due Dec. 11th, 2015


I want each student to produce a short film about completing a process and have it on YouTube - ready to screen - for our next class on Dec. 11th.

By process I mean a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.

Simply put, I want each student to make a short film about someone doing something.

They can work with other students making their films, but each student should make their own short film. They can shoot it on cellphones. It can be edited together using any editing program the student wants - even just in the phone.

I would prefer that each film be no longer than 15 shots. Shorter is OK. No film should be longer than 2 minutes - and shorter is OK.

The finished films must be posted to YouTube.

In English, film teachers call the kind of film each student will be making a “process film.” That's because these films show a process - a series of actions or operations leading to an end - from start to finish.

For a process film, each student can choose to show almost any process with a beginning, middle, and end.

For example?

1) A girl putting on make-up.
2) A boy tuning his guitar.
3) A child tying a shoe.
4) A mother making noodles.
5) A worker planting a tree.

The great thing about a “process film” as a learning exercise is:

1) It teaches about visual storytelling. You need to plan your shots to tell the story. The idea is not to use words (try not to use dialogue or voice over) - just let the pictures tell the story. It will really help to have a written story outline and storyboard - but they are not required for the assignment. Music is OK but also not required.

2) Almost every Hollywood film includes a section that is technically a “process film.” A chase sequence is a process. And Rocky training for a fight is a process. And Tony Stark building his Iron Man suit is a process. So learning how to make a “process film” is an essential part of learning be a filmmaker.

But wait… we’re not done…

The part of the assignment that makes it complicated is that I also would like each student to use both of the tools we discussed in our last class as they think about their process film.

Specifically, the tools I want them to work with are the ”4 Character Questions” and “The Hero’s Journey.”

To start, once each student has decided on a process, I want them to ask the 4 questions about the character who is engaged in the process.

For example?

1) What does the girl putting on make-up believe?

2) What is the girl putting on make-up afraid of?

3) What does she think she wants?

4) What does she really want?

(Maybe she is going on a date she doesn’t want to go on - because she thinks the boy isn’t good enough for her - but then her date surprises her with flowers! And she realizes she really wanted to be appreciated!)

Or maybe the boy tuning the guitar will be performing a song at his parent’s wedding anniversary. What he believes and fears will effect how he behaves. And, if the filmmaker really considers what the boy tuning the guitar thinks he wants and what he really wants - could that help to make the guitar-tuning film much better than just a film where the lead character doesn’t have goals and obstacles?

In addition to thinking about the "4 Character Questions," I also want the students to think about "The Hero’s Journey."

Here are links that the students can follow to watch videos that explain how The Hero’s Journey has been used in other films:

Is engaging in a process (e.g., putting on make-up or tuning a guitar) like a journey with trials and an ultimate battle? Does the person who has attempted the process (of putting on make-up or tuning a guitar) return with a new understanding about what they are capable of? Maybe that’s asking too much for a short film. But The Hero’s Journey is a tool that Hollywood screenwriters often use to think about how to make their stories richer and more meaningful. And it actually can help to make even very some short films (commercials?) better.

Good luck!

Here is the assignment in Chinese (translated by Chen Cheng-Yu).

Randy老師希望每個學生都能拍攝一部介紹流程的短片(process film)並放到youtube上,準備下次於12月11日上課時播放。



在英文中,電影學校的老師將這類的影片稱之為" process film"。因為這些影片展現了從頭到尾完成某件事的各種步驟或行動。

在這個拍攝process film的作業中,每個學生可以選擇任何包括開始,中間過程與結尾的某種行為過程為主題。

A. 某個女孩化妝的過程
B. 某個男孩在幫吉他調音
C. 一個小孩綁鞋帶
D. 一個媽媽煮麵
E. 一名工人種下一棵樹…等等

拍攝process film是一個好的練習,因為

A. 這是一個練習用影像說故事的機會,拍攝時需要計畫好要拍攝的鏡頭,並用這些鏡頭說故事。重點是不要靠話語說故事(盡量不要使用對白或畫外音),讓影像成為說故事的素材。如果事先寫下故事大綱與分鏡會對整個拍攝產生極大的幫助,但故事大綱和分鏡並不在這次作業要求的範圍之內。使用音樂是OK但同樣不規定必須要有。

B. 幾乎所有好萊塢電影中都包含了可被視為process film的片段。一段追逐戲,洛基中為比賽訓練的過程,東尼史塔克打造他的鋼鐵衣,這些都是process film。學習如何拍攝process film是學習如何成為電影創作者不可或缺的原素之一。

第一步,同學需要先決定要拍的process film是關於哪種行為,接著,就開始用四個問題來問影片中執行process的主角。
A. 那個在化妝的女孩相信什麼?
B. 那個在化妝的女孩害怕什麼?
C. 那個在化妝的女孩以為她想要什麼?
D. 那個在化妝的女孩真正想要的又是什麼?



Randy Finch's Film Blog:

Thoughts from a film producer about making and distributing films.