Image by Mario Calvo / Unsplash

The most memorable movies pull us in not just because of visually exciting scenes, but through the emotion they elicit from the viewer. Wonderful aesthetics and a clever script definitely grab attention, but it’s the emotionally resonant films that have a truly lasting impression on audiences.

One method filmmakers use to convey emotion within a sequence of shots is context. A popular storytelling technique that exemplifies this is the montage, where a series of images or scenes are shown to move along the narrative. Montages are useful in showing the connection between different shots and how they can achieve a certain tone. Filmmakers can do things like build tension or strengthen the audience’s connection to characters by introducing unexpected images that add tension or force a narrative pivot. 

Next time you’re watching a movie, pay close attention to how certain shots are contextualized. Watch filmmaker and Pixar alum Craig Good explain more about the use of contrast in visual storytelling in the following clip.

Want to apply this technique on your own projects? Learn more tips and tricks on visual storytelling for film by enrolling below:

Cinematic Storytelling

California College of the Arts