An open letter to the action directors of Hollywood

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Dear Sir / Madam,

It has recently come to my attention that you seem to have forgotten how to shoot and frame action cinema. I would like to offer you this simple guide on what not to do.

Equipment required: stopwatch, printer, desk

Step 1 – Look at the image below

The image is the triptych The Garden Of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch. It is a model of structured composition. Please firstly reflect on your own shot composition, and take the time to think if you have given as much consideration to how your shots are composed. Or indeed, any consideration at all.

Step 2 – Use your stopwatch to time how long it takes to review the whole image

Now consider that there is a certain amount of time that they eye requires to take in that detail. The length of your shots and the cuts between them does not need to be directly proportional to what’s in the image, but it should bear some relation to if you actually require us to understand what’s in your action shots.

You can also gauge this effect by printing off the image and placing it on a desk. Now run past the desk as fast as possible – did you see anything? No? Then stop cutting your movie to within an inch of its life.

Step 3 – Pick up the image, hold it at arm’s length and wave it about as violently as possible

Can you make out anything in the image. No? This is what it’s like trying to watch your movie when you wave the camera about in an attempt to put movement into your shots or to appear arty. You could not see what was happening, and neither can we. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, STOP DOING IT.

With these three steps followed, you should be able to return to making action movies that we can all watch, understand and enjoy. Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

The Movie Evangelist

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