shoulder shots in a movie about a coach is, in my opinion, one of the
strongest and most important techniques that a filmmaker can use to
invoke feelings about the coach among viewers. Through over-the-
shoulder shots, viewers are immediately able to see the scene from the
perspective of whomever’s shoulder the camera is peering over. This
ability to manipulate the perspective that viewers see things from opens
many doors for filmmakers and gives them the ability to create a
powerful identification among viewers. For example, in Coach Carter,
one of the opening scenes shows Coach Carter being verbally abused
and physically threatened by a player on the team. In this scene, over-
the-shoulder shots from behind both Carter and the player give viewers
a full sense of what the scenario is like for both characters involved.
When the camera shows the scene from behind Carter, it gives viewers
a chance to understand what the situation is like in his shoes; in this
case, angry, strong, younger men are standing in front of him and
threatening him, a sight that invokes feelings of fear for Coach Carter
from the audience. On the other hand, when the camera moves to an
over-the-shoulder shot from behind the player, viewers are able to see
Coach Carter from the eyes of the players. In this case, Coach Carter is
viewed as serious, unflinching, and calm in the face of the players’
aggression and threats, and this portrayal gives viewers a better
understanding of Carter’s personality and strength. By showing Carter
from this angle, it becomes clear to the audience that the players don’t
intimidate him and that he has total control over the situation even
when viewers may have feared he didn’t. Overall, over the shoulder
shots give filmmakers the ability to manipulate the point of view that a
scene is shown from and allows them to show every scene from various
different perspectives. In these coaching films, this capability is
extremely important for filmmakers because the perspectives that
viewers see coaches will shape their thoughts and feelings about the
coach, influencing the way they understand him as a character.
Overall, it is easy to watch a film one time through and identify
themes, such as certain coaches fitting into the “good teacher”
archetype. In reality, though, the more challenging and more interesting
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