Watch Tony Zhou discuss ensemble staging in Memories of Murder by Bong Joon Ho.

How Directors Use Ensemble Staging to Manipulate the Audience’s Attention

How Directors Use Ensemble Staging to Manipulate the Audience’s Attention

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Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 3 2016 1:45 PM

How Directors Use Ensemble Staging to Manipulate the Audience’s Attention

ensemblestaging

Still from YouTube

Much of directing deals with telling the audience where to look. Usually, this is done through close-ups and editing—we’re either placed near the main characters, or we get back-and-forth cuts that highlight who and what is important at a given moment.

Then there’s ensemble staging, wherein a director crams several people into a single frame and uses subtle tricks of light, focus, and action to guide your attention. The latest installment of Every Frame a Painting, Tony Zhou's brilliant video essay series, details the nuance of this approach, with particular attention paid to Bong Joon-Ho’s 2003 hit Memories of Murder. It's a sharp, revealing study of how a director can be most powerful when you barely notice his hand. 

Sharan Shetty is on the editorial staff of the New Yorker. You can follow him on Twitter