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How to Make a Film "Noir"?


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If I were to try making a noir movie today, what would be some stuff that I would HAVE to include?

 

Any good scene ideas? Plots? Sets? Suspenseful moments?

 

For instance, in Double Indemnity. Remember right before he got shot, Macmurray had that weird shadow cast over his body by the window shades that made it look like he was behind bars? What kind of things could I do to give a film my own little dark touches like this?

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I'm no expert, but I'll give it a shot:

 

Silhouette/Dark Lighting/Contrasting Photography - basic, non-negotiable elements of a film noir in my opinion.

 

Employ common themes of despair, moral decay and decadence... of protagonist(s) unknowingly descending into a corrupt world.

 

Optional: A Femme Fatale or corrosive female who wittingly leads the protagonist into the corrupt world. Of course, I don't think American cinema really depicts women in such a negative fashion any more.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Jackie, that's pretty good. It's as much style as it is substance. Music can be a pretty important part too. It helps set a mood as much as how you light it. Most everyone in the film must be somehow flawed. There's a past to be overcome or a weakness that trips them up. A healthy dose of lust and/or greed. The dialogue usually is sarcastic (see Philip Marlowe films).

 

It would seem to be tough to pull it off today. I doubt a studio would be that interested.

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  • 2 weeks later...

You need to shoot the film in the city, at night, in black and white.

 

Stark contrasts with lighting. The mood is despair, loneliness, no hope for redemption.

 

Minimal set design. These films were originally shot in the late 40s on limited budgets, so they used simple camera set ups (such as several people in the same shot, in the foreground, middle and in the back of the scene). Look at The Asphalt Jungle or Orson Welles' Touch of Evil for ideas.

 

I think the femme fatale is essential, not optional. She drags the man down the slippery slope to a tragic end. He is caught in the trap and the more he struggles to get out, the worse he is trapped. Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, the woman in Detour.

 

Oh, and don't forget cigarettes. Lots of them. Good atmosphere...

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Wow! Those are REALLY awesome ideas, Sabrina! Thanks a ton! Of course, I'm open for more if any of you guys have suggestions! : )

 

I love the cigarette idea, and I was planning to shoot the thing in black and white. Could you see it otherwise? There's no way I EVER could!

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  • 2 weeks later...

In addition to all of the technical touches, in inner conflicts of the characters are what drive the characters to make the choices they make. The hero usually falls for the femme fatale and believes that a) if he could just have her his life would be better or B) she is worth throwing his life away for. The Femme fatale is either a bad girl trying to get better or a good girl forced by circumstances to be bad. Then there's the villian... usually a person of single minded purpose willing to stop at nothing to acquire whatever it is he values.

 

Hope this helps. Would love to hear about your film.

Ravenjazz

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  • 1 month later...

Bear in mind that the folks in the 1940s who made what the Cahiers du Cin?ma would later anoint films noirs had no idea that that's what they were making. They were just trying to tell the best stories they could at the lowest cost possible, hence all the shadows to hide cheap, fragmentary sets. Like so many things later held precious, it was just a style and method that was backed into, which is often the hallmark of good films of any genre.

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I can tell you first hand that not a lot of studios are willing to do noir pictures these days.

 

You see the post WW2 society in America is difficult to duplicate considering what type of society we live in today.

 

From 1941-1958 the idea of a tragically flawed protagonist was new and fresh-it fit in with the morale of the Nation's people after the second World War. Today, moral breakdown in society is pretty much a given...our World today is so cynical the underlying elements and motifs of Film Noir are somewhat lost.

 

But then look at the film L.A. Confidential, then look at Sin City. That's sort of what has become of Film Noir with more modern movies: an ideal or flavor.

 

Just about all of my film plays contain elements of noir, but aren't defined by the visual look and conventions of what we all know classic film noir to be.

 

It's very difficult selling noir pitch stories to studios these days.

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Yes I do. My love for film and literature got a bit too heavy and I needed an outlet. Took it a few steps further and produced and directed some short films, and was a Script Supervisor on another, but when you get down to the heart of it-script writing is my truest love.

 

And Film Noir is probably my second I guess you could say.

 

You a writer too?

 

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moviegeek

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I'd be happy to send you some links to some helpful sites regarding the craft of screenwriting. There's some places where myself and other working writers hang out to discuss fundamentals, sales, and the in's and out's.

 

I rarely let too many strangers read my work. The only two I've sold are both Horror films and only one is in pre-production. I'm writing an Thriller right now.

 

I can point you in the right direction as far as learning about the craft though.

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