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Understanding Mis en Scene

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Misty Faucheux•updated: 6/18/2009

Here are some of the key points for understanding Mis en Scene in your film production.

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    Mis en Scene is a classic element of production design that hails all the way from the golden age of cinema when the principles of live theater were still at play. Mis en Scene really indicates what is going on in the “stage,” or the scene framing of the camera.

    This has a multitude of elements from the way things are decorated to the objects that inhabit the area. What you have to be concerned about here is exactly what things in the physical space ensure the reality of the scene.

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    The key point about Mis en Scene is the director’s choices about the environment. This is going to hit a few key areas of what constitutes the physical area.

    First, you need to ensure that the situation, the supposed location, time period and everything else that plays into the reality that you are propagating and asking to audience to believe. This means making sure that all props fit for the scene and situation as well as everything in the production design.

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    The next stage here is to make sure that the action that occurs is both appropriate and real with the environment. Stage the scene as it would really happen as the director interprets it and plan this so that it feels real to the story flow.

    After this, you have to frame it, or at least plan out a cinematographic path, that will capture this entire scene construction that you have created.

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    Mis en Scene is the whole package that you create. It is acknowledging the scene as it is and making sure that everything both fits into the parameters of the story as well as the tone and themes that you have set out for it.

    This puts together both with the physicalities of the set, the props and the way the action plays into it as well as the way the camera captures it.

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    Mis en Scene often does not include things like dialogue or story elements because these are determined by the writer. Mis en Scene usually only indicates those things that are interpreted by the director.

    This means that the director constructs something to maintain the realities that were already set. This part really only happens in pre-production and on set.