Mise-en-Scene (Discussion)

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  1. What are icons? What is iconography? Discuss examples from in-class episodes of The Andy Griffith Show or The Big Bang Theory.
  2. What narrative impact does the economic decision to shoot on studio sets have on sitcoms (with studio audiences) and soap operas? That is, how does set design shape the way stories are told?
    1. Of the sitcoms we've seen in class (The Andy Griffith Show, The Big Bang Theory), which were shot on studio sets with studio audiences? Name three recent comedies that are shot with a studio audience and then name three that are not.
  3. Lighting questions:
    1. What are the characteristics of three-point lighting? What function does each "point" serve? Pretend you are a director of photography (DP). Describe a scene that might not use three-point lighting and explain why.
    2. What is the difference between high-key and low-key lighting? And what is chiaroscuro? Pretend you are a director of photography (DP). Describe a scene that might use each of these techniques.
  4. Describe the mise-en-scene of the Stranger Things scene. How are aspects of the characters (Eleven, Mike, Lucas, Dustin) communicated through mise-en-scene? That is, what would we know about the characters even if there were no dialogue in this scene?
    • Groups 6 & 1: costume design, iconography
    • Groups 2 & 4: set design
    • Groups 3: lighting design (be sure to account for the lighting in the screenshots below)
    • Groups 5: blocking and figure movement

Stranger Things, Season 1, Episode 2

  • Answer the same questions regarding this scene from Northern Exposure ("Jules et Joel," 10/28/1991), with "Joel," "Jules," and Maggie. Directed by James Hayman.
    • Groups 2 & 4: costume design, iconography
    • Groups 3: set design
    • Groups 5: lighting design
    • Groups 6 & 1: blocking and figure movement


  1. Butler, Jeremy G. Television: Visual Storytelling and Screen Culture, 5th edition. New York: Routledge, 2018.

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