This is the first in a series of articles titled Elements of Cinema, in which we
examine how different areas of a film’s production contribute to creating the look,
mood and feel of various types of scenes.
A cinematic love scene can reach out from the confines of a TV set or movie screen
right into the heart of its audience. The team behind South African romantic comedy
Leading Lady share how they were able to produce this moment of magic, in which
lead characters Jodi and Kobus dance together for the first time.
Henk Pretorius on directing:
Love scenes are awkward and mechanical, so I had to make the actors feel as
comfortable as possible. I think your role as a director is always to know what you
want the audience to feel while watching the scene and to direct it until the picture
in your head makes you feel that way. In this scene I wanted the audience to feel a
sense of relief as our romantic leads finally open up to each other.
Esme Viviers on production design:
Lighting sets the mood, and so practical lighting provided by the environment like
the paraffin lamps used in this scene, helps the DOP justify his mood lighting. In
addition, the audience must be focused on the characters so it’s important to keep
the room as monotone or desaturated as possible with nothing to distract them.
Claudia Hamman on makeup:
For romantic scenes I like to create a look that requires minimal makeup, with the
focus on subtle lined eyes. I worked with Jodi’s natural features, using a lip tint to
bring out her rosy lips for pure sweetness. Kissable lips in a romantic scene is
Jim Petrak of Sound Surfers on sound design:
When creating sound for a love scene I work closely with the composer to highlight
key moments of connection between the characters. Using strings and violins in the
music adds to the emotion of the scene, while removing elements like percussion
allows a gentle delivery of dialogue. We also kept the foleys light and touchy to
compliment the flow of their movements.
Trevor Calverley on cinematography:
In shooting this scene, we wanted to allow the action to unfold in front of us,
without cutting too often. So we ran a track from one side of the set to the other,
and then shot the master on a zoom. This allowed rapid reframing, resets and
angles changes. Once the master was set and we went in for close-ups we had the
opportunity to craft a little more.
Trevor Calverley on lighting:
This scene had to be cosmetic and romantic. It was achieved by using soft sources,
skirted to create little soft pools that the couple could dance through. This was
complimented by peppering them with more direct, harder sources. This would
create a little intermittent backlight “ping’, separating them from the background.
For the close-ups we used a silk frame and got it as close to the actors as possible
to create a pleasing eye-light, while “wrapping’ the light around the face, dropping
off softly into darkness.
Warwick Allan on editing:
When cutting a love scene like this it is critical to build tension and take the viewer
on a journey with the characters. When you get into the emotional core of the
performance – that is when you can move people in a big way. I do this by using
detailed close-ups to show what the actor is experiencing, looking for the subtlety in
the eyes of an actor and building that the believability.
Henk Pretorius on scripting:
In a romantic comedy you ultimately aim to fall in love with both/all of the
characters that you create, convincing the viewer that all you really need to be
happy in life is your significant other. I always think the more sceptical the writer
behind the film is of this myth, the more depth the film will have.