Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Directing and the Art of Suturing in Scandal

Before I post my analysis of the final episode of season one of Scandal, I want to say a few words on directing as it relates to suturing, a technique to which I’ve recently become attuned, whether it be in a movie, TV show or rock concert!  

Recently, at a Chris Isaak concert, Chris, early in his performance came off the stage to walk among the audience in search of someone to whom he would give a guitar.  It didn’t take him long to find a worthy recipient, a beautiful girl around nine or ten years old wearing a midnight blue satin dress that coincidentally complemented his sparkling baby blue suit.  He brought her on to the stage and taught her the basics of rock and roll, thoroughly delighting and wooing the audience in the process. Later in the show, he walked among the audience, had his base guitarist walk among the audience, invited women onto the stage to dance with his lead guitarist, all the while encouraging the audience to take photographs and go wild in celebration of his last concert of the year.  There was not a single person at that concert who didn’t fall in love with Chris Isaak and who wouldn’t gladly fork out money to see him again, not to mention tell all their friends about how fantastic he was.  This, I realized was the art of suturing, creating identification with your audience.

My favorite movie of 2013, which I saw twice on the same weekend, was Gravity.  The techniques used by Alfonso Cuaron to bond the audience with Sandra Bullock’s character were especially effective in 3D, my most memorable being when we crossed through the glass of her space helmet to bring you literally inside her head during the opening sequence; when the space ship debris came flying right off the screen; and when her single tear drop suspended in space.  These moments effectively put the audience not only in her universe, but “in her shoes.”

Scandal’s team of directors is also adept at physically suturing with viewers, in particular utilizing the long take of an extreme close-up, whether it be Olivia or another character’s face, or hands that long to touch but can’t or don’t.  We are also given the reactions of all the characters in a room, especially when it’s Olivia’s team assembled in the conference room or behind glass walls.  Since this is a single-camera show, the amount of takes it requires to accomplish this contributes to really good television, but it is particularly relevant to creating a through-line that ties together a logical progression of cause and effect, from beginning to end. 

Other notable choices are the quiet versus the ‘on-the go shots’ in which we get to experience the pace of Washington D.C. politics through the characters talking in motion.  And it would take me a year to analyze scene structure, but I do notice that invariably a scene opens and ends on the same character, even if it’s one in which Olivia has entered then left, usually having had the last word.  Likewise, the majority of episodes end on Olivia’s face.

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