1: Filming

Learning Objective: 
to deconstruct extracts of Psycho

Success Criteria:
* Apply knowledge and understanding to show how meanings are created when analysing extracts of the film (AO2)
* Plan and construct a screenplay using appropriate technical and creative skills (AO3)
* Demonstrate understanding of how Hitchcock creates meaning through camera use (AO2)
* Construct a plan of a scene to show understanding of how to affect audience (AO2/AO3)


Psycho ‎‎(1960)‎‎ Extract ‎‎(C2A)‎‎

9607 Media Studies C2A Assessment Criteria

C2A Practice Paper: Pyscho

In his role as both director and producer, Hitchcock was in the privileged position of having a great deal of involvement in the actual planning and filming of Psycho. His originality in this area contributed greatly to the unique nature of the film.

The following section of the Psycho screenplay describes Lila's approach to the Bates' house from the motel, near the end of the film - as you just watched. The words in capital letters are the camera instructions that Hitchcock added. A subjective shot is a point of view shot - it reproduces the viewpoint of the character; it is as if we are looking through their eyes.

Read over the screenplay extract and compare it to the actual sequence in the film. In pairs, discuss the following:-

* How similar is the screenplay to the finished product? 
* What differences can you see? 
* What does this tell you about Hitchcock’s pre-planning before the filming began? 
* What does the music add to the scene?
* How different would this scene have been if Hitchcock had put the camera in one place and filmed Lila as she walked up to the house from one position only? What would be lost from the sequence? 

Psycho Script

Create your own bit of Psycho screenplay by describing the things you see and adding the camera instructions for the scene below.

As we know, Hitchcock made no secret of his methods of using the camera to tell a story and affect the emotions of his audience: 
‘The point is to draw the audience right inside the situation instead of leaving them to watch it from outside, from a distance. And you can do this only by breaking the action into details and cutting from one to the other, so that each detail is forced in turn on the attention of the audience and reveals its psychological meaning.’ My Own Methods, Hitchcock, 1937.

In Psycho, this approach reaches its peak of perfection in the shower scene. There were censorship reasons that made the quick-fire cutting of the shower scene necessary, but Hitchcock’s principal concern was to disturb the audience and to suggest terrible violence and bloodshed without actually showing very much.

Watch the iconic shower scene.  

Put a number on the plan corresponding to the camera position needed to catch each shot. 

What technical problems can you imagine the film crew had to overcome?

There were actually 78 separate camera set-ups needed for the shower scene and it took seven days to film. Among the technical headaches were the problems of keeping pieces of moleskin glued to Janet Leigh (Marion) to prevent her appearing nude; filming the head-on shots of the water pouring out of the shower (solved by blocking some of the central shower holes and using a long lens to prevent the camera being soaked, although the camera crew were less fortunate) and filming ‘Mother’ from inside the shower. The walls on each side of the shower were detachable to enable the crew to film Marion’s demise from every possible angle.
Saul Bass created a meticulous storyboard that made the scene possible, and was on the set during at least part of the filming. 

After Hitchcock's death, Bass asserted that he had directed the scene at Hitchcock's invitation - a claim definitively contradicted by both Janet Leigh and Assistant Director Hilton Green. Bass's partisans have subsequently held that Hitchcock merely mechanically filmed shots already laid out by Bass. Comparing the storyboards to the filmed scene shows that to be untrue. 

On the other hand, the most crucial elements of the scene, such as the drain-eye match-cut and the tracking shot that follows it, are in the storyboards. That proves nothing about the author of the scene, however, since Bass drew the storyboards after extensive discussions with Hitchcock about the design of the scene.

Hitchcock was relying on something known as the Kuleshov Effect, a principle of film editing named for the Russian filmmaker who experimented with it in the 1920s. 

In a nutshell, the Kuleshov Effect is when two or more separate shots are edited together in sequence and the viewer infers information that is not actually shown. It’s not the content of any one shot that matters so much as how it relates to the shots before and after it. 

For example, if you see a close-up of a man looking lovingly to his left, followed by a close-up of a woman looking adoringly to her right, then cut back and forth between them, we understand that these two people are looking at each other — even though we haven't actually been shown that they’re even in the same room, let alone connected in any way. (If you didn’t want to rely on the Kuleshov Effect, you’d start with an establishing shot where we see the man and woman in the same frame, then go to the close-ups.) In the shower scene, Hitchcock manipulates us into thinking we’re seeing details that aren’t there, implying a nude woman being stabbed but not actually showing it.


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