The main goal in a scene definitely varies from shot to shot. Some scenes are simply carriers that get us from one important scene to the next. Some are reactions that give the audience a taste of how someone is feeling toward a conflict or resolution in another scene. Some are comedic moments used to emphasize a point of humor.
So nailing down the answer to what is the main goal in a scene is difficult.
Not so fast, sunshine. Let’s dig a little bit deeper into this question.
Each scene HAS to have a purpose, right? I mean even the carrier scene that gently takes us from one cool shot to the next has to do something to the audience. OOhhh. That’s it! Do something to the audience. Each shot has to make the audience feel a certain thing – fear, happiness, sorrow, deflation, warmth. Why would a shot do anything else?
So the main goal in a scene should be clarity.
Wait a minute, you’re thinking. Weren’t you just talking about fear and happiness and carrier pigeons?
Well, yes to most of that. My point is that the audience HAS to feel what you are intending and the ONLY way to do that is to be clear in your shot. Someone should look at your shot and know instantly what is going on. It can be humorous or difficult but it MUST be clear.
Without it, you lose your audience. Lose your movie. Lose your job. Well, maybe not the last two things but it can definitely take the audience out of the film – something that needs to be avoided at all costs.
But how do you maintain clarity? Simple. Don’t overdo the point you are trying to make your character make. If he’s giving a declaration of what he believes in, make him stand up and maybe point to the heavens. He is making a stand! Don’t flail his arms around or make his head bobble like a baseball giveaway. Guide the audience’s eye directly to the most important thing in the scene. In this case – HIM! His mouth. His gesture to the heavens!