Arts & Entertainment

Deconstructing Visual Choices: The Beaver

Jodie Foster

Lesson time 16:29 min

Jodie breaks down a storyboard sequence from her movie The Beaver to explain how she chose shots that help convey the emotional message of the scene.

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Topics include: Deconstructing Visual Choices: The Beaver


So we managed to drag out some storyboards from "The Beaver," executed by a much better storyboard artist than myself, thank goodness. You'll be able to see how we constructed quite a difficult scene. It is the scene where Walter attempts suicide. He's had a night of drinking. He's distraught. He's depressed, and he decides to try to kill himself by hanging himself on a shower curtain rod. He even messes that up. And the shower curtain rod falls, and he is in the bathtub. He drags the curtain rod with him out to the balcony. We notice that he still has this puppet on his hand that he's forgotten about. He drags the shower curtain out to the balcony, and he climbs up onto the railing. He thinks about his life and about that one moment where he's about to throw it all away and about to finally kill himself. And the beaver puppet pops up into his face and says, "Oy." And that confusion of that sends him backwards. Falling backwards into a stunt, of course, where he hits the television set, which comes crashing on his head and knocks him out. [MUSIC PLAYING] PUPPET: Oy. - We needed to storyboard that sequence because it involves a man hanging over a curtain rod, falling into a bathtub, dragging this curtain rod, standing over the railing of a hotel-- obviously this is dangerous-- falling backwards, and having a big television set fall on his head. We needed to be very meticulous about how this was going to be executed and how it was going to be cut together, obviously, to keep the actors safe. But more importantly, in order to tell the story beats that we needed to tell as economically as possible. So I'll grab my storyboards. As you can see, the storyboards start off on the curtain rod and him attaching his necktie. And we boom down into a profile of Walter. Then I like to jump back to this wide frame. And the film was filmed in anamorphic ratio-- the sort of wider ratio with these lovely anamorphic lenses-- so it allows you to have this very, you know, painterly vision of this distraught man standing in the bathtub with a necktie attached to him. A very sad image with a lot of negative space on both sides. Walter's feet step up, so we see his feet step up onto the bathtub. And we have to boom up a little bit from his feet, so that we see him about to hang. Then, we cut to a frontal, where he's tightening this noose. It felt important to me to add these pieces. To not have it all play in this big wide shot-- in this lonely wide shot. We need to understand that this man is about to commit suicide and that this is agony for him. It's important to see that on his face, to see him be distraught. One of the things that is of concern in this sequence is that the film is kind of a black comedy. There are black comedy quirky elements to it. So yes, is this a sad movie about somebody who's attempting suicide. But we have some quirky parts to it. So we don't want to have the suicide...

About the Instructor

Go behind the scenes with two-time Oscar-winner Jodie Foster, star of Silence of the Lambs and director of Little Man Tate. In her first online film class, she’ll teach you how to bring your vision to life. Jodie discusses her experience on both sides of the camera to guide you through every step of the filmmaking process, from storyboarding to casting and camera coverage. Everyone has a story. Learn how to tell yours.

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Jodie Foster

In her first-ever online class, Jodie Foster teaches you how to bring stories from page to screen with emotion and confidence.

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