Steven Soderbergh Creates Silent, Black & White Recut of Raiders of the Lost Ark to Explain the Art of “Staging”

raiders silent

Since offi­cial­ly retir­ing from film­mak­ing last year, Steven Soder­bergh has filled his time writ­ing Twit­ter novel­las, cre­at­ing mashups of Alfred Hitch­cock and Gus Van Sant Psy­cho films, and post­ing a log of all the films, TV shows and books he immersed him­self in in 2009.

Now comes his lat­est side project: On his web site,, Soder­bergh presents a short les­son in “stag­ing,” a term that refers in cin­e­ma “to how all the var­i­ous ele­ments of a giv­en scene or piece are aligned, arranged, and coor­di­nat­ed.” He tells us: “I oper­ate under the the­o­ry a movie should work with the sound off, and under that the­o­ry, stag­ing becomes para­mount.”

To illus­trate his point, he takes the entire­ty of Steven Spiel­berg’s 1981 film, The Raiders of the Lost Ark; turns it into a silent, black & white film (watch it here); and then adds this com­men­tary:

So I want you to watch this movie and think only about stag­ing, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of move­ment are, what the cut­ting pat­terns are. See if you can repro­duce the thought process that result­ed in these choic­es by ask­ing your­self: why was each shot—whether short or long—held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? Sounds like fun, right? It actu­al­ly is. To me. Oh, and I’ve removed all sound and col­or from the film, apart from a score designed to aid you in your quest to just study the visu­al stag­ing aspect. Wait, WHAT? HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? Well, I’m not say­ing I’m like, ALLOWED to do this, I’m just say­ing this is what I do when I try to learn about stag­ing, and this film­mak­er for­got more about stag­ing by the time he made his first fea­ture than I know to this day (for exam­ple, no mat­ter how fast the cuts come, you always know exact­ly where you are—that’s high lev­el visu­al math shit).

Ok, that’s prob­a­bly enough film school for today…

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Alfred Hitchcock’s Sev­en-Minute Edit­ing Mas­ter Class

Wern­er Herzog’s Rogue Film School: Apply & Learn the Art of Gueril­la Film­mak­ing & Lock-Pick­ing

Spike Lee Shares His NYU Teach­ing List of 87 Essen­tial Films Every Aspir­ing Direc­tor Should See

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