Mise-en-Scene (Discussion)

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Review topics from Television

  1. Review "objective correlative." Icon is another word for it. What is iconography? Discuss examples from in-class episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, The Big Bang Theory, or Schitt's Creek.
  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, or Schitt's Creek), which were shot on studio sets with studio audiences? Yes/no question for each.
      • Chat window: Name a recent comedy that was shot with a studio audience and one that was 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. Yes/no questions. Is this high key lighting (four screenshots below)?
      • 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.

Stranger Things, Season 1, Episode 2

  1. Describe the mise-en-scene of the Stranger Things scene (video clip on Blackboard). 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?
    • Group 1: costume design (iconography)
    • Group 2: set design (iconography)
    • Group 3: lighting design (be sure to account for the lighting in the screenshots above)
    • Group 4: blocking and figure movement

Northern Exposure bar scene: "Jules et Joel," 10/28/1991

  1. Answer the same questions regarding the bar scene from Northern Exposure ("Jules et Joel," 10/28/1991), with "Joel," "Jules," and Maggie--on Blackboard. Directed by James Hayman. (Be sure to watch the bar scene and not the dinner scene.)
    • Group 2: costume design (iconography)
      • You could easily tell that the man at the bar was a nerd, with his large glasses, his striped collared shirt that does not really belong in a bar, and his napkin tucked into it.
      • His twin was distinguishable as a player, slicked-back hair and toothpick telling us that he was more of a bad boy type character. His watch and suit tell us that he might have wealth.
      • The woman was presented as strong and independent with her darker colors and vest showing more masculine traits rather than feminine. Her makeup is strong but not overpowering, just enough to show she is put together.
    • Group 3: set design (iconography)
      • The set design was a standard bar, with neon signs advertising alcohol.
      • There was a coat rack holding heavier coats, letting us know that the bar is located somewhere with colder weather.
      • The way the bar was set up indicated that it was a bar from the 80s/90s.
    • Group 4: lighting design (be sure to account for the lighting in the screenshots above)
      • low key lighting - used to highlight characters against the dim background of the bar
      • the "nerdier" brother is lit up more than the more sleazy-looking brother to accentuate the exaggerated differences in their personalities
      • lighting reflects off of the slicked-back hair of one brother, which further accentuates the dramatization his more sleazy personality
    • Group 1: blocking and figure movement
      • We noticed two different blockings: (1) The man sitting with the woman at the table with the chair. (2) Separation of the man with the woman across the bar from his brother allowed them to observe.
      • Each character:
        • The man with the slicked back hair was acting very naturally, very relaxed, and comfortable with himself. He seemed very jittery, and moved around quite a bit. He pulled the chair closer to the woman, moved it back, etc.
        • The man eating dinner was very structured, and very particular. He seemed like he had a particular routine.


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

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