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)
Dogme 95
a collective of film directors founded in Denmark in 1995 led by Lars von Trier, with a distinctive democratizing philosophy and set of rules (termed "the vow of chastity") that rejected special effects and contrived lighting/staging and camera work, and espoused returning to more "truthful" and honest, "non-Hollywood" forms of cinema; the ten rules included shooting on location, use of hand-held cameras, natural lighting only, no props, use of digital-video (DV), lack of credits for the director, etc. Examples: Thomas Vinterberg's Festen (The Celebration) (1998), von Trier's Idioterne (The Idiots) (1998), writer/director Harmony Korine's Julien Donkey-Boy (1999), Søren Kragh-Jacobsen's Mifune (1999), Jean-Marc Barr's Lovers (1999, Fr.), Richard Martini's Camera (2000), Kristian Levring's The King is Alive (2000), Lone Scherfig's Italian for Beginners (2001, Denmark).
Dolby stereo
a stereo-sound process for motion pictures created by Dolby Laboratories, Inc., used to improve sound quality; 35mm prints have two optical sound tracks (Dolby can decode and playback on four channels), while 70mm prints have six magnetic tracks for multi-channel playback; by the 1990s, Dolby Stereo was superceded by advanced digitally-recorded sound Examples: The first Dolby encoded stereo-optical soundtrack on a feature film was Ken Russell's Lisztomania (1975). Other Dolby stereo soundtracks existed for Star Wars (1977), Apocalypse Now (1979), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), and Superman (1978).
dolly (shot)

refers to a moving shot in which the perspective of the subject and background is changed; the shot is taken from a camera that is mounted on a hydraulically-powered wheeled camera platform (sometimes referred to as a truck or dolly), pushed on rails (special tracks) and moved smoothly and noiselessly during filming while the camera is running; a pull-back shot (or dolly out) is the moving back ('tracking back') of the camera from a scene to reveal a character or object that was previously out of the frame, dolly in is when the camera moves closer ('tracking in') towards the subject, and dollying along with (or 'tracking within') refers to the camera moving beside the subject; also known as tracking shot, trucking shot, follow shot, or traveling shot; contrast with zoom shots.

Examples: the first eight minutes of Robert Altman's The Player (1992) was filmed with a sustained dolly shot, similar to the famous opening sequence (shown here) of Welles' Touch of Evil (1958); or the opening shot in Boogie Nights (1997) that tracked into the 70s disco, or the shot from the dressing room to the ring in Raging Bull (1980)
doppelganger
a German word literally meaning: "doublewalker," a reference to the fact that a shadow-self, duplicate, counterpart or double (spiritual, ghostly, or real) accompanies every individual Examples: in cinematic use, the contrast between the 'good' and 'evil' side of a person, as in Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951) between Robert Walker and Farley Granger (shown in criss-crossing shots of their shoes), or the 'evil' Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) and his 'twin' counterpart - the 'good' young Charlie (Teresa Wright) in Shadow of a Doubt (1943); also evidenced in Brian De Palma's Sisters (1973), Kieslowski's film The Double Life of Véronique (1991), David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers (1988), and Fight Club (1999)
double
refers to the person who temporarily takes the leading player's place for a dangerous or difficult stunt, or to photographically stand in for the actor (when the latter is not available or when the actor wants a body double for a nude scene, etc.)  
double exposure
to expose a single frame twice so that elements of both images are visible in the finished product; produces an effect similar to superimposition and is often used to produce 'ghostly' effects  
double take
a comedic convention that refers to the way in which an actor first looks at an object (subject, event, scene, etc.), then looks away, and then snaps his head back to the situation for a second look - with surprise, disgust, sexual longing, etc.; a variation is termed a spit-take (the double-take causes the character to spit out whatever he is drinking) Example: W.C. Field's double-take at a black bank customer in a teller line in The Bank Dick (1940)
drive-in
an outdoor movie theatre in which the patrons viewed a film from their automobile; films projected were often B-films or low-budget films; reached their peak in terms of popularity and numbers in the 1970s; also called a passion pit, ozoner; contrast with a hard top (or indoor movie theatre).
 
dub
(or dubbing)
the act of putting a new soundtrack on a film or adding a soundtrack (of dialogue, sound effects, or music) after production, to match the action and/or lip movements of already-filmed shots; commonly used when films are shot on location in noisy environments; also refers to adding translated dialogue to a foreign-language film; as opposed to direct sound - which is sound recorded when filming a scene; contrast to looping.  
dunning
the process or technique of combining shots filmed in a studio with background footage shot elsewhere  
dutch tilt
(or canted angle)
a shot made with the camera leaned to one side and filming at a diagonal angle; see also camera angle. Examples: in Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949).
dynamic frame
a photographic technique used to mask the projected image size and shape to any ratio that seems appropriate for the scene (e.g., the image narrows as an actor passes through a narrow passageway, and then widens as he emerges)  
dystopia
an imaginary, wretched, dehumanized, dismal, fearful, bad, oppressive place or landscape, often initiated by a major world crisis (post-war destruction) coupled with, an oppressive government, crime, abnormal behavior, etc.; the opposite of utopia (a state of ideal perfection); see also nihilism Example: the worlds of Metropolis (1927), Fahrenheit 451 (1966), A Clockwork Orange (1971), the comedy Sleeper (1973), Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1979), Blade Runner (1982) (pictured) and 1984 (1984)
editing
(editor)
the process (performed by a film editor) of selecting, assembling, arranging, collating, trimming, structuring, and splicing-joining together many separate camera takes (includes sound also) of exposed footage (or daily rushes) into a complete, determined sequence or order of shots (or film) - that follows the script; digital editing refers to changing film frames by digitizing them and modifying them electronically; relational editing refers to editing shots to suggest a conceptual link between them; an editor works in a cutting room; the choice of shots has a tremendous influence upon the film's final appearance.  See Best Film Editing Sequences.
ellipsis
the shortening of the plot duration of a film achieved by deliberately omitting intervals or sections of the narrative story or action; an ellipsis is marked by an editing transition (a fade, dissolve, wipe, jump cut, or change of scene) to omit a period or gap of time from the film's narrative.  
emcee
another term for master of ceremonies  
end (or closing)
credits
credits appearing at the end of a film; aka end titles  
enfant terrible
literally from the French, meaning "terrible baby" - referring to a brilliant, young, passionate but egotistical, brash director; characteristics of an enfant terrible director include being innovative and unorthodox
Example: Orson Welles and Citizen Kane (1941), Steven Spielberg and Jaws (1975), Michael Cimino and The Deer Hunter (1978), Guy Ritchie and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), and Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and The Lives of Others (2006, Germ.)
ensemble (film)
a film with a large cast without any true leading roles, and usually with multiple plotlines regarding the characters; it also literally means 'the group of actors (and sometimes directors and designers) who are involved in a film'. Examples: The Philadelphia Story (1940), Rio Bravo (1959), The Last Picture Show (1971), The Godfather (1972) films, St. Elmo's Fire (1985), The Breakfast Club (1985), Steel Magnolias (1989), Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), Reservoir Dogs (1992), and numerous Altman films, such as Nashville (1975) and Short Cuts (1993)
epic
a costly film made on an unusually large scale or scope of dramatic production, that often portrays a spectacle with historic, ancient world, or biblical significance.

Examples: Ben-Hur (1959), Titanic (1997), or Patton (1970), shown here.
epilogue
a short, concluding scene in a film in which characters (sometimes older) reflect on the preceding events Example: the epilogue of Saving Private Ryan (1998) and Schindler's List (1993) (pictured)
epiphany
a moment of sudden spiritual insight for the protagonist of a film, usually occurs just before or after the climax  
episode
a self-contained segment or part of an anthology film or serial; a number of separate and complete episodes make up an episode film Example: Twilight Zone - The Movie (1983)
episodic
a film that is composed of a series of loosely-related segments, sections, or episodes, with the same character(s) Examples: Intolerance (1916), Around the World in 80 Days (1956), Short Cuts (1993), Pulp Fiction (1994)
establishing shot
usually a long (wide-angle or full) shot at the beginning of a scene (or a sequence) that is intended to show things from a distance (often an aerial shot), and to inform the audience with an overview in order to help identify and orient the locale or time for the scene and action that follows; this kind of shot is usually followed by a more detailed shot that brings characters, objects, or other figures closer; a re-establishing shot repeats an establishing shot near the end of a sequence.
Example: the beginning of Laurence Olivier's Henry V (1944) includes an establishing shot across a detailed model of 16th century London; also the early wide-angle views of the New Zealand coastline in The Piano (1993)
exec or exex
abbreviations for 'executive' or 'executives'  
executive producer
the person who is responsible for a film's financing, or for arranging the film's production elements (stars, screenwriter, etc.)  
exhibitor
term meaning 'movie theatre owner'; aka known as exhib (shortened term)  
experimental film
refers to a film, usually a low-budget or indie film not oriented toward profit-making, that challenges conventional filmmaking by using camera techniques, imagery, sound, editing, and/or acting in unusual or never-before-seen ways; sometimes aka avante-garde, art films Examples: Disney's Fantasia (1940), Hitchcock's Rope (1948), Jonathan Demme's Swimming to Cambodia (1987)
exploitation film
a sensational, often trashy B-film aimed at a particular audience and designed to succeed commercially and profitably by appealing to specific psychological traits or needs in that audience without any fuller analysis or exposition; often refers to films with extremely violent or sexual scenes; not necessarily a derogatory term; various types include blaxploitation, sexploitation, splatter films.
Examples: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970), Cannibal Holocaust (1980, It.), Porky's (1981) shown here, or any of Roger Corman's New World Pictures films, such as Bury Me an Angel (1971).
exposition
the conveyance (usually by dialogue or action) of important background information for the events of a story; or the set up of a film's story, including what's at stake for the characters, the initial problem, and other main problems.  
expressionism
(and expressionist)
refers to the distortion of reality through lighting, editing, and costumes, to reflect the inner feelings and emotions of the characters and/or the filmmaker; a cinematic style of fantasy film common in post-WWI Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, characterized by dramatic lighting, dark visual images and shadows, grotesque and fantastic shots, distorted sets and angles, heavy makeup, highly stylized acting, and symbolic mime-like action and characters; opposed to realism.
Examples: Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) led to the term caligarisme (referring to the chaotic, expressionistic cinematic style in the film); also F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu (1922) and Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927)
extra(s)
a person who appears in a movie in a non-specific, non-speaking, unnoticed, or unrecognized character role, such as part of a crowd or background, e.g., a patron in a restaurant, a soldier on a battlefield; usually without any screen credit; also termed atmosphere people; contrast with walk-on and non-speaking role, bit players, or principals; also see cast of thousands
Examples: The Ten Commandments (1956) in the Exodus scene, Ben-Hur (1959) chariot scene, Spartacus (1960). Recent films use CGI to create fictional crowds of extras, such as in Gladiator (2000), or soldiers and a fleet of ships in Troy (2004) (pictured).
eyeline match
a cut between two shots that creates the illusion of the character (in the first shot) looking at an object (in the second shot).  


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