Staging is technically defined the process of selecting, designing or modifying the performance space for a play or a film. But for a film, staging must not look as staging on the screen. Irony, Isn’t it? In fact, if a scene looks staged, The scene is a failure in every aspect. So, why do we call it as staging then? Do all filmmakers approach their scripts by staging it or is it just a very few? Does it even matter to stage or not to stage one’s script? Do read further to know it.
Staging in Drama and Films are Incomparable!
In a play, the audience are outside the stage (a literal one) and staging is done on the stage which is the performance space. The audience are mostly seated outside surrounding that one particular stage.This implies that they know the act is going to be staged for them as they are just a visitor here. But in a film, The audience could be anywhere literally! Each member has one particular view from one’s static position.
This is because, the camera of the film could be anywhere that would form the perspective of the audience! In a way, One is staging for the camera in a film! By staging in films, This is what we mean. And it cannot look staged unlike in a drama theatre as the camera is inside the screen witnessing the events as a part of the character (which forms the audience).
Staging gives rise to Film Language!
Staging is the first seed laid during the shoot of any film. It is what that gives birth to a director’s signature film language. The way one stages his films results in one’s own film language. Take mysskin for instance. Myskin’s film language could be deciphered even by a person that watches films very rarely. It’s because, such is the impact that he creates by staging in his own way! If given a situation, we ourselves could predict how mysskin would stage the scene. Consider yudham sei’s opening scene at the auto. I don’t think if there’s any other director given the similar situation would be able to bring out the intended feel of discomfort that Mysskin had brought in.
Another example would be Anurag Kashyap. I want to quote this particular scene from mukkebaaz where bhagwan (jimmy shergill) is shown to trap the hero’s wife and mother in a small hut. A simple scene of Bhagwan walking inside the hut and sitting beside the mother in front of an half-unconscious wife, delivers to us the power that Bhagwan (character) possesses in the film. If it wasn’t the way it was staged, this meaning wouldn’t have been conveyed for sure. Consider any great filmmaker, their film language is wholly determined by the way the stage their scenes!
So how does one use staging to convey the intended like the ones above?
It involves a lot of visualisation of the scene from the script inside one’s head before the shoot. Especially, during the storyboard and shot divisions, one could consider giving it a thought about how to go about the particular scene. It’s a combination of the various camera angles, props placed in appropriate positions, Position of the characters from the camera, tracking/non tracking shots, All of which could be considered using a trial and error method to be sure whether the right combination of these conveys the intended flawlessly. Before this, One ought to be sure on what he wants to convey in the scene.
Take the scene from shining (1980) where Jack Nicholson takes a look at the miniature model of the maze from the film. The camera angle in that scene is such that, it covers the maze and Jack Nicholson from the front, With the maze on the bottom of the screen, and Jack Nicholson at the top signifying that he is at an upper hand (with more power) than his wife and daughter. So imagine if the camera was such that, both the maze and jack Nicholson were at the same axis at the same level, Does it convey anything? It might convey something, But not the one that I mentioned above for sure. Similarly if one assesses the opening scene of Yudham sei or the scene in Mukkebaaz, one could unravel how these directors have staged it so that it delivered some particular meaning.
One could go on quoting on examples of great staging in films that resulted in some or the other meaning on the screen as there isn’t a good scene in film without proper staging for sure!