"Hell, there are no rules here, we are trying to accomplish something."
- Thomas A. Edison
When is it right to break the rules of film making? First off, before you break any rules it's a good idea to truly understand them. Once you understand why a rule exists you'll have a good idea of what happens when you disregard that rule. Let's use the rule of thirds as an example; we know from an earlier discussion that by framing our subject a specific way (not just centered in the frame) we can create a more aesthetically pleasing image. In other words our footage will be more interesting to look at.
So how do we break this rule? We can center our subject. Or worse we could focus on nothing at all. Or even worse, we could have a great zombie attack scene going on and turn the camera away completely, focusing on nothing and leaving the audience to wonder WTF is going on with the zombie attack?
Now that we've established some ways to break the rule of thirds we should ask the most important question of all... Why? Why do we want to disregard this rule? There are many reasons to break rules, but simply having a reason is not enough to justify rule breakage. It's a good idea to ask yourself some additional questions. Am I making my film better? Is breaking the rule my only option? Let's continue with our example from above, we are shooting a zombie attack scene, we have the option to frame this shot using the rule of thirds, but we've chosen to disregard the rule of thirds. We've decided that just as the zombie is about to attack we're going to point the camera in another direction, focusing on nothing as all. Why? Reason one... We aren't good at special effects and basically we don't feel we can pull off the shot. LAME! You can do better then that. Reason two... We have a really good sound guy and we think the sound of the attack is more powerful than actually seeing it. Ok, better. Reason three... The character being attacked is shooting the scene in first person. As he is attacked he drops the camera, which is now on the ground focusing on nothing at all. Meanwhile our kick ass sound designer has created a great audio mix for the attack. VERY NICE!
We raised a new context in the last scenario... First person video. First person video is when we see the story unfold through a camera being used by one of the story's character. In a traditional films characters never acknowledge the existence of the camera. In fact they will rarely even look directly into the camera. In a first person film the camera is constantly being acknowledged think of Cloverfield and The Blair Witch. By its very nature first person video is rule-breaking. Acknowledging the camera, also called breaking the 4th wall, is a no-no in traditional film making.
So what does this say about Lost Zombies? We are breaking a shit load of rules and we are going to continue to do so. Everything about this project is rule-breaking.
WTF Lost!? Why did you spend all this time telling us about these rules to begin with?
Because they're good rules to know, but most importantly you should now begin to understand why first person video is so affective in eliciting emotion. Think about Cloverfield for a moment (if you haven't seen it watch it. If you hate it that's okay, but it's a good example of first person video), as the shit begins to hit the fan in Cloverfield we become aware that there is some kind of creature attacking the city. For a long time all we get are glimpses of the creature. In our minds, or perhaps out loud, we are yelling at the guy with the camera, "Point your camera at the monster! I want to see it!" What's most fascinating about this scenario is we accept that the character doesn't know how to properly use a camera. In fact it actually increases the believability of the scenario. If there really were a 60 story monster attacking the city would you be all that concerned about framing the perfect shot?
First person video sets the expectation with your audience that the person using the camera is not a professional. This means you can get away with all sorts of garbage shots.
Does this mean you should go nuts and break rules? No. It's important to walk a fine line when shooting in the first person. On the one hand you want your footage to appear real and authentic. On the other hand, people still need to be able to watch it. If you go back and watch Cloverfield again you'll see that they obey the rules of thirds more often then not and they rarely jump the line.