Anatomy of a Scene

A video series where directors comment on the craft of movie-making.

The New York Times.

Use this template to take notes of the Anatomy of a Scene. 

Lesson plan

Here are the instructions I created for this assignment:

  • Imagine yourself as the director of Gulliver’s Travels. You have recently finished shooting the movie and you’ve been asked by the New York Times to narrate a scene for its Anatomy of a Scene collection, similar to the clips from the movies, Little Women, A Quiet Place and Harry Potter.
  • Scan back through the movie using the links on Google Classroom and choose an important 1-3 minute scene to narrate for the class.
  • Make sure to discuss two or more elements of the film, such as setting, characters, mood, camera angles, sounds, costumes, lighting, special effects, props, and any others elements present in your scene.
  • Make sure to also discuss satire. Based on what you know about the story, using the Lit Charts summaries and “The Satire of Gulliver’s Travels handout below, what is Swift commenting on?  How is Swift’s satire evident in your scene?
  • Record your narration on your cell phone. Also, in the beginning of your narration please tell us the “minutes and seconds” location of your scene, so I can easily locate your particular clip.
  • Turn in your audio file on Google Classroom. If they had trouble doing that, I asked them to email it to me instead. It was the first time I’ve had then submit audio files in this way, so I was a little unsure about how it would all work on the technical end. Source: ELA Brave and True by Marilyn Yung

Creating an “anatomy of a scene” encourages students to think more broadly about a text and/or its filmed adaptation. To better wrap my own mind around the concept, I read this article written by educator Julie Hodgson on the New York Times website about how she uses these two- to three-minute videos.

“In these short clips, film directors narrate a scene from one of their movies, walking viewers through the decisions they made and the effects they intended them to have,” writes Hodgson. “These videos demonstrate to students how to step outside of their personal reader-to-text experiences and examine literature from a wider lens — to see a story, memoir, essay or poem from the perspective of its creator.”

Julie Hodgson | The Learning Network at The New York Times

This sounded interesting, so I nosed around on the NYT website and came up with an idea for students to create their own “anatomy of a scene” from the Gulliver’s Travels movie we had just finished.

To introduce the whole “anatomy of a scene” concept, I showed students three examples from the NYT collection. Here’s a link to the anatomy from the movie, A Quiet Place.

I also showed students the “anatomy of a scene” from the 2019 version of Little Women below.

And for good measure, I finished with this clip from the Harry Potter franchise:

After showing them just three examples from the entire 260-plus NYT “anatomy of a scene” collection, it was time to provide some instructions and an example made by Yours Truly.

I would love to hear from you