Film Terms
Glossary

Illustrated

Film Terms Glossary - Index
(alphabetical and illustrated)
Introduction | A1 | A2-B1 | B2 | B3-C1 | C2 | C3 | C4-D1 | D2-E1 | F1 | F2-I1
I2-L1 | L2-M1 | M2-O1 | O2-P1 | P2-S1 | S2 | S3 | S4 | S5-T1 | T2-Z

Film Terms Glossary
Cinematic Terms
Definition and Explanation
Example (if applicable)
prologue
a speech, preface, introduction, or brief scene preceding the the main action or plot of a film; contrast to epilogue. Example: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) provided a prologue to briefly explain the essential history of Middle-Earth and its inhabitants
promo
slang term for sales promotion  
props
(or property)
abbreviation for properties - refers to the furnishings, fixtures, hand-held objects, decorations, or any other moveable items that are seen or used on a film (or stage) set but that are not a structural part of the set; usually the responsibility of the prop man or property master.
Example: Life-size cutouts of celebrity guests, from the set of The King of Comedy (1983)
protagonist
the lead or main character in a film; also known as hero/heroine; contrast to antagonist.  
punchline
a funny, witty line that culminates a story, joke or scene; contrast with payoff and one-liner Example: In When Harry Met Sally...(1989), the request of a female patron after Sally's fake orgasm in the deli: "I'll have what she's having."
Q rating
refers to an ad research rating that gauges how easily a celebrity is recognized -- and how well the celebrity is liked  
rack focusing

refers to an on-screen film technique of focus change that blurs the focal planes in sequence, forcing the viewer's eye to travel to those areas of an image that remain in sharp focus; the focus changes from an object in the foreground to an object in the background or vice versa, to direct, shift, and steer the attention of the viewer forcibly from one subject to another; also known as selective focusing or pull focus

Example: the scene in Desert Hearts (1985) when Vivian (Helen Shaver) realized that lesbian Cay (Patricia Charbonneau) was naked in her bed behind her, or the foreground image of a spider-web in Spider-Man (2002)
rating system(s) or ratings
also known as the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) film rating system, first officially instituted in late 1968; it refers to the ever-evolving classification system for films usually based upon age-appropriateness, and the judgment of a film's suitability for various audiences, in terms of sexual content, offensiveness, or violence; see also censorship






Examples: "G-Rated or General Audiences," "PG-Rated or Parental Guidance Suggested," "PG-13," "R-Rated or Restricted under 17," and "NC-17, or No One 17 and Under Admitted" (originally known as the X rating), are examples of ratings; the X-rating is not trademarked / copyrighted by the MPAA; NR (not rated), meaning that a film was not submitted for ratings, is sometimes used in place of X. Pornographic films often use "XXX" to imply a rating stronger than X.

reaction shot
a quick shot that records a character's or group's response to another character or some on-screen action or event; often accompanied with a POV shot; reaction shots are usually cutaways.  
real time
actual time it would take for an event to occur in reality, as contrasted to filmic time (time can be sped up or slowed down). Real and filmic time often coincide for long sequences within a film; also see running time.
Example: High Noon (1952) was specifically shot in real-time with frequent reference to clocks ticking closer and closer to the noon-time showdown.
realism
filming so that the reality outside the camera is shown in a neutral style with as little distortion and interference as possible; realism is attained by long, uninterrupted takes, deep focus shots, and other filmic techniques; contrast to expressionism; similar to the 'reality' of docudramas Examples: Woody Allen's Husbands And Wives (1992); Bergman's Scenes From a Marriage (1973)
rear (screen) projection
a special effects technique to create backgrounds, in which actors are filmed in front of a screen on which a background scene is projected; commonly used in early films to produce the effect of motion in a vehicle. Also see process shot, process photography, or back projection.
Example: rear projection in Written on the Wind (1956), or the many films with shipboard scenes of two actors standing near a railing behind which are rear-projected waves and sky
red carpet
literally, to "roll out" a welcoming 'red carpet', laid down for major ceremonies (film premieres, awards ceremonies) to signify an important, honorary event with dignitaries and esteemed guests attending; often the locale for live interviews and photo opportunities
Example: the red carpet entryway for the Academy Awards show
red herring
an instance of foreshadowing that is deliberately planted to make viewers suspect an outcome--but the audience is to be deceived - the opposite happens and the false clue 'plant' is irrelevant; often done for humor, irony, or for other thematic reasons; contrast to McGuffin Example: the various clues, all to subvert and confuse, that are unrelated to the real reason for Michelle Pfieffer's paranormal beliefs and confusion in What Lies Beneath (2000).
redlighted
refers to a film project that was in production, but lost its financial backing - resulting in a premature abandonment by the studio; aka a film in turnaround  
reel
refers to a plastic or metal spool for winding film; also, earlier films were measured in reels (one reel = about 10 minutes of running time).

Example: typical film reel
re-enactment
a film production that re-creates an actual event as closely as possible Examples: Glory (1989), Nixon (1995).
reference
refers to how one film in its storyline (through dialogue, images) alludes to, recalls, or refers to another film; similar to homage

Examples: the movie that E.T. (in Spielberg's E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)) is watching at home on TV and that Elliot re-enacts in his Science class is the John Wayne classic The Quiet Man (1952);

and in Electric Dreams (1984) (pictured), Edgar the computer watches TV - in one sequence he views Forbidden Planet (1956) starring Robby the Robot.

reissue
refers to a studio releasing a work subsequent to the original or initial release; similar to re-release  
release
refers to the first distribution and general public exhibition of a film to theatre audiences.  
remake
refers to a later production (of a previous film), with different credits, script, and cast; a redone, second version of a film's narrative and subject matter; remakes have been common throughout all of film history.

Examples: The Jazz Singer (1927) remade in the 50s as The Jazz Singer (1953) with Danny Thomas, and in the early 1980s as The Jazz Singer (1980) with Neil Diamond; also What Price Hollywood? (1932) became A Star is Born (1937) - with Janet Gaynor, and A Star is Born (1954) - with Judy Garland, and A Star is Born (1976) with Barbra Streisand; and the unnecessary, meticulous shot-by-shot remake of Psycho (1960) by Gus Van Sant in 1998


rentals
refers to that portion of film grosses that goes to film distributors; also refers to videocassette (or DVD) rentals  
re-release
the revival or rebroadcast of a work by the original distributor, studio, releaser, or broadcaster. Example: Disney's re-releases of its animated films every five to seven years.
reshoot contingency
refers to the funds kept or saved by a producer in case supplementary shootings (reshoots) are required - often occurring after test screenings or decisions made by studio executives  
resolution
the outcome, or the "untying" of tension in the scenes after the climax of a film; refers to how things turned out for all of the characters; some films abruptly end without a scene following the climax; aka denouement Example: the original, non-studio version of Don Siegel's ultra-paranoid Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) was softened with the addition of a framing device ('bookends') at the film's beginning and end), to change the film's resolution and make it less grim
retrospective
usually a tribute, exhibition, or 'looking back' at a film star's, artist's or director's work over a span of years with a comprehensive compilation or montage of film clips or excerpts; also known as a retro; also, in terms of a screenplay, a film in which nearly the entire story is looking back in time at events that have already taken place, usually accomplished by flashback Example: Sunset Boulevard (1950) - a film told almost entirely as a backwards-looking retrospective
reverse angle shot
a basic camera angle composed of a shot photographed from the opposite side of a subject to provide a different perspective; in a dialogue scene between characters, a shot of the second participant is commonly composed as an over-the-shoulder shot; sometimes known as an 180 degree angle shot or change in perspective; the alternating pattern between two characters' points of view is known as shot/reverse shot



Example: a typical dialogue scene with shot/reverse shot between two characters in Written on the Wind (1956).
reverse motion
refers to a trick camera effect, created by running film backwards in the camera or during optical printing; aka reverse action  
revisionistic
refers to films that present an apparent genre stereotype and then subvert, revise, or challenge it; aka deconstruction
Examples: Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), and The Long Goodbye (1973); Arthur Penn's Little Big Man (1970) (shown here); the sword-and-sorcery Dragonslayer (1981, UK), or Costner's Dances With Wolves (1990)
revival house
film or exhibition theatres that are dedicated to emphasizing or specializing in only one type of film - such as foreign films, older films, silent films, classics, rarely-screened films, etc. Example: the Film Forum in New York City, founded in 1970, which exhibits well over a hundred different classic films a month on three screens; one screen features a theme every month (i.e., Greatest Westerns, Paramount Before the (Hays) Code, Golden Age of Film Noir (1941-1958))
roadshow
refers to exploitation films (such as "sex-hygeine" films) with controversial content (disguised as educational medical information) that were heavily promoted and shown on the road, and would be packed up quickly in case of the authorities; also refers to films that were released early and shown in prestigious theatres Example: showman Kroger Babb's Mom and Dad (1945), or Child Bride (1938)
roman a clef
a French term literally meaning 'novel with a key'; in film terms, refers to a film in which actual persons/events are disguised or masked as fictional characters - but with a 'key,' the true persons/events are revealed Examples: Citizen Kane (1941) - with similarities between Kane and newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst
rotation
refers to a camera rotation - which can be a vertical or horizontal pan; or it may refer to a camera move in which the camera is moved in a complete (or half) circle to produce a spinning, disorienting effect to the viewer; a partial rotation is termed a tilt  
rough cut
an early edited (or 'cut') version of a film - with all the pieces of the film assembled in continuous, sequential order, but without any fancy editing; also sometimes known as first cut; one of the stages toward the final cut; often used in a focus group screening.  
running time
a measure of the duration or length of a film, usually about two hours for a feature film.  
rush(es)
the prints of takes (of the camera footage) from one day's shooting, usually without correction or editing, for examination by the director before the next day's shooting; aka daily-ies  
satire
a mocking, ridiculing commentary on an economic, political, religious or social institution, ideology or belief, person (or group), policy, or human vice. Examples: The Great Dictator (1940), Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love the Bomb (1964), Brazil (1985)
scenario
(1) the outline for a screenplay, or (2) a complete screenplay  
scene
usually a shot (or series of shots) that together comprise a single, complete and unified dramatic event, action, unit, or element of film narration, or block (segment) of storytelling within a film, much like a scene in a play; the end of a scene is often indicated by a change in time, action and/or location; see also shot and sequence.
Example: The classic love scene of John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara caught in a drenching rainstorm in a graveyard, and their rain-soaked embrace in The Quiet Man (1952)


Previous Page Next Page