Wheelie Good Tips: Filmmaking

For those that enjoy watching films, we all appreciate that there is a lot that goes on behind and in front of screen which goes unnoticed but, without it we would not have had the same cinematic masterpieces we have come to love over the years.  What's more interesting though, is to see how movie productions have changed  when it comes to recording the performances in a way to best achieve their goal- to provoke an emotional response from the audience to make them feel as if they were there in the scene themselves. 

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I'm no film expert, but the art of filmmaking is a passion of mine and I try to understand and appreciate everything that goes into making a motion picture. From the initial pitch to the studio that will fund the project to hiring the director, screenwriters, producers, actors, set designers, editors and the list goes on and on. 

In my research, I came across a technique used for cinematography that has stood the test of time and is still used today. That is, the 'Wheelchair Dolly'. In short, a person holding the camera sits in a wheelchair and is pushed/pulled by a fellow crew member whilst rolling (in both terms of the word) to capture a moving sequence within a scene. 

But why?

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Surely with today's technology, it would have been thought that filmmakers would not need to use a wheelchair when filming large blockbusters. However, the opposite is true. Consider the fact that when an action scene of people running in a straight line is taking place, a camera will be bound on a set of tracks, being able to go from point A to point B and back again. This is all it can do. So, when it comes to filming in tight spaces or needing to make quick and evasive manoeuvres without having the camera shake, what better option is there that can allow you to turn 360° to move in any direction to capture the desired shot to perfection. Sometimes keeping it simple saves time, money and gets the job done quickest. Using a wheelchair dolly makes is easier to perform dolly zooms or the Vertigo effect as it is known where an object feels like it comes into focus getting closer as its surroundings move further away creating a 'vertigo effect' due to the mind seeing things focus and move in a way that we do not expect it to. 

Creating the famous circle shot from JEAN- lUC GODARD'S   breathless. 

Creating the famous circle shot from JEAN- lUC GODARD'S breathless. 

One notable example of a wheelchair dolly being used is the famous circling shot taken during Jean-Luc Godard's French New Wave classic Breathless. See if you can spot where it's used! 

It is something that is so easy to do that for any aspiring DIY filmmakers out there, why not get a used wheelchair, get a camera, get rolling and see what you can do! 

Who knows, if you use a wheelchair yourself, there may even be a possible career opportunity for wheelchair users in a specialised niche as wheelchair dolly cameramen/women. 

If you do record any videos using a wheelchair dolly please send them to me and I will share them for everyone to see. 

I welcome any suggestions that you may feel you would like to share and be broadcasted for people to be made aware of. If you would like me to include your suggestion, please contact me via submitting the form on the 'CONTACT' Page using the subject: "wheelie tips". 

As always, thank you for reading. 

- Ollie