Film School: The Insert Shot

Business card scene in 'American Psycho' (2000) Business card scene in 'American Psycho' (2000)

The dramatic peak of a dialogue scene is often a close-up… of an object.

Perhaps the most amazing of the fantastic takeaways from StudioBinder‘s breakdown of the business card scene in American Psycho (2000): director Marry Harron‘s revelation that Christian Bale can sweat on cue.

Tyler Mowery refers to the object in the insert shot as the scene object, and argues that every dialogue scene is about choice:

  • Character want: Who wants what in the scene? Who is in their way?
  • Choice presented: Will A or B be chosen?
  • Scene object: What is the important object the debate is over?
  • Side A vs Side B: Where do all the characters in the scene stand on the choice?
  • Power of Choice: Whose choice is it?
  • Stakes Raise: How is pressure built on the choice?
  • Choice Made: Which option is chosen?

Further Viewing

The insert shot is often part of the peak of the dramatic arc in a dialogue scene – here are some examples:

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