How to "Watch a Movie and Call it Research"


hi all,

I am in seach of some fresh movie Ideas as well as new ways of storytelling by film techniques.

I have heard from many people on this forum to watch a lot of movies for this.

but whenever I start watching a nice movie with the purpose in mind to learn something,
I quickly get lost in the magic of that movie.

so my question is “Is there any methodology through which you can learn by watching movies, you can take notes or learn some new Ideas or techniques?”

please post if anyone have tried any successful procedure.


the best way is to watch with a fellow film dork and talk about the movie while it’s going on.


^^^ Agreed!


One of the tried and true methods is to turn the sound off.

Also, forcing yourself to just watch short segments can help.



I am thinking to try to watch different segments from different movies randomly.

like cutting scenes of movies in 20-30 seconds segments.
and watch all these parts in random order.

I will give it a try tomorrow ,and I am sure it will start brainstorming.

like you never know, what is coming next and you can try to make a meaningful link between
all parts, so birth of a new story, may be…

and the sound off method is also quite useful,
because by switching off one medium in a multimedia experience, you are out of magic and can concentrate on learning.


All those methods work really great, but you can also, like you said, watch the movie through and be lost in its magic, but afterwards, spend an hour or so thinking as much as you can about what you saw - writing, direction, lighting, acting, etc. etc. That tends to work for me pretty well.


I agree. I kind of prefer to get lost in the story the first time through and talk about it after. Then I revisit the film a second time a little more analytically.


If I’m going to study a particular movie, I have to watch it twice. The first time, I watch it as a typical viewer, not trying to pick it apart or anything. When it’s done, I’ll write myself a mini-review, making notes on how I felt about the story, the characters, etc.

The second time I watch it, I take that mini-review and really analyze the movie to figure out where those impressions came from. Why did I feel unsatisfied at the end? Why did I roll my eyes every time a particular character came on screen? Why did I not bother pausing the movie when I had to go to the bathroom? Sometimes, it’s story-related. Sometimes it isn’t.

I often use this example, but during The Bourne Supremacy, I totally lost interest during the fight scene in the kitchen. Why? Because I couldn’t see what was going on due to the poor choice of using a hand held camera in a tight space to record fast action. If you can’t see what’s going on (see also The Blair Witch Project), it’s very difficult to care about what’s happening.

Watch it twice. It helps a lot.


Also watching the special features or making of sections can really help, after you do the other things first.


special features and making of movie are like jewels but very rare.

yesterday, I cut few scenes from “schindler’s list”, the greatest movie ever made by

and working on it.
before that I reviewed some scenes from “Tarzan”
like “kala meets tarzan” and “tarzan meets jane”.

I am always looking for empathy points and ways to generate pathos in the story.

introducing new character always gives a springboard to the story, I guess.


Here’s an idea. Post a thread to a popular forum, like CGTalk, and call it, “Uwe Boll is the greatest director of all time!”

Now, sit back and harvest all the nuggets of insight from the resulting flamewar. Done.


But I assure you that isn’t the case… Lucas is the awesomest d00d



hey biffen,

nice idea,

why post somewhere else?
I am just continuing on this thread…

I am always amazed by movies from spielberg.

so here is my question?
how spielberg handles his movie? any ideas…

I am asking this specific question because in CG we are the gods of the crew and actors.
because we are all of them.
like one man army…

  1. Jurrasik park
  2. Schindler’s List
  3. Minority Report

and my most favourit : A.I.

how can we create a bit of magic like this in our short movies?

and lucas is also great at trilogy,
but wachowaski bros are no less in Matrix.


Must…contain…urge…to flame… :twisted:

Seriously though, from a movie making perspective, they are amazing movies. It’s not often that something comes along that’s truly groundbreaking and I think the first Matrix movie was exactly that. I have to hand it to anyone who comes up with something so new that they actually have to go invent the technology to accomplish it.

But…(you knew that was coming, didn’t you?)

From a storytelling perspective, they’re a little less than stellar. Again, the first installment was great, asking a familiar philosophical question (“How do we know what’s real?”) in an incredibly original way. But I think that was pretty much all they had in them. The second movie was completely pointless from a story POV, and by the third, they had fallen so in love with their own reputation that the weird and (to me) unsatisfying climax just fell flat. It was kinda like they lost track of what it was that they were trying to say in the first place, which is bound to happen when you become an overnight sensation the way they did.

Just my 2¢.


I will have to second the idea of watching the movie as a viewer the first time and then afterwards ask yourslef questions or discussing it. Then the second time try to have a notebook ready and give yourself tasks. I allways set up what I’ll be looking for at any following viewing. For example Pick out the 12 dramatic point in the movie according to the Hero’s journey. These 12 points is what we call a Mythological breakdown and is common for a “reader” for studios to do to summarise the film for producers and to be able to judge the structure objectivly without concerning oneself with if one likes the genre or not.

Another task can be to make a more common breakdown using the Paradigm (Three act structure) and picking out the basic five plotpoints.

If it’s more the visual storytelling you want to disect and not the basic structure you could as some one else pointed out turn off the sound and see if you can make out of the core of different scenes or you could pick out the dramatic beats of the actors, looking at what their agenda with every line of dialouge and every movement is and when it changes (that change is called a “beat” dramtic lingo and is the smallest part of dramatic structure.

My basic point being try to set up a specific taks for yourself and write down your findings on a notpade of a laptop and save them for later reference if you want to.

Hope this helps.



To watch a movie isn’t enough - You also need some docs & notes to go with it.

My movie of the moment is ALIEN, but before I saw it in Director’s Cut form with the supplementary stuff - I simply asumed that it was a low-budget production with a stroppy director. But after I found it to be a painstaking labour of hard work and much sweat’n’tears.

We make so many assumptions from just watching a film, but its only the end product.

A good example is all those supplement note books for Shakesphere’s plays… :slight_smile:


Easier to analyze a film if you watch the dvd edition.

I watch a dvd once through without thinking too much about behind-the-scenes stuff or theory. Then I watch it again with the commentaries on, preferrably by the director. Then I go to the bonus features.

Rob Cohen gave a good scene by scene analyses for “The Fast and the Furious” with some interesting insights to editing a gruesome scene to appease the ratings board as one of the bonus feature. And Robert Rodriguez is also pretty good in describing process and decisions he made as a director. Check out his commentaries for the “Spy Kids” trilogy. I also recommend the special edition of “Taxi Driver” by Martin Scorsese. And “Goodfellas”, which is also by Scorsese.

Checking out reviews by movie critics you respect can also clue you in as to what to look out for.

With DVDs you can just jump chapters to go to scenes that offers something for thought and investigation.


Buy or Download the script to the movie and follow the script and see how the script plays out in the movie and vice versa. There are places online you can most likely get the script from.
That’s a pretty good location.

Transcripts are okay for dialog but a shooting script will give you the story capsulated so all the camera moves and settings will be in there aswell (the better of the two).

Look at the movie like a critic would and right a review of the movie.

Also watching it more then once. Once to enjoy the movie and the next time to see what if anything you would have done differently. Make notes on changes you would have made. Also as mentioned before the DVD has in many cases the Actore/Directors coments overposed on the movie this can be a tremendous help as you see what he/she wanted but somehow got changed before release. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is an excellent place to get nearly everything you need to make a Lord of the Rings yourself…(don’t do that). It is a great resource. I enjoy the entire thing both the movies themselves and the making of parts. PJ set the standard for DVD release for those that like nearly every aspect of a movie.


I just read interview of Quantine Tarantino in Film Review.
about how Kill Bill appeared in his mind not making of Kill Bill.

he described every single thought he does when making a movie.
During production of Pulp Fiction, he got the Idea of movie and fixed Uma as Bride too.

the point is:
script and pre production of Kill Bill vol. 1 & 2 took nearly 6-7 years.

how come???

6-7 years to just a revenge movie.

when I watched both the movies, I found them one of the most engaging movies on planet.

what was excluded,

Vol. 1

good script,
amazing camerawork,
good backgound score,
black and white footage,
fight in silhoutte,

vol. 2

new characters like pie-mei.
story cont. with flashbacks flashing.

this is ongoing list.
but I must say is good treatment before going into production always pays latter.

the last fight in vol. 1 between Uma and Luci-Lue was amazing.
it was in rhythm. slow-fast-slow-fast.
on the fast beat both are fighting and when someone cuts another, suddenly it slows down
the the camera goes to a wide angle shot showing whole ground and water flowing from a wooden
then again fast-fighting cont.

it was music in fight without any real background music.



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