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date: 07 April 2020


A Dictionary of Film Studies

Annette Kuhn,

Guy Westwell


A method for analysing a script for direction and performance that is commonly used in commercial film and television production in the US. Narrative beats identify the plot points of the story in terms of setting and action, while acting beats define the motives of characters through clarity of action. A director can use the beat method to plan what needs to be shot in order to tell the story effectively. If the narrative beat needs to indicate that a character is alone, a shot can be blocked to ensure that this beat is clear to the audience. In the case of acting beats, both the director and the actor can prepare for a performance and decide what it will entail. If the acting beat is ‘to hurry’ then the actor can prepare this beat in term of physicality, gesture, and expression and the director can ensure that the scene is shot so that this beat is conveyed to the audience. Beats are a useful, practical tool to ensure a shared and explicit interpretation of the script among those involved in a production. See also blocking; storytelling terminology.

Further Reading:

Proferes, Nicholas T. Film Directing Fundamentals: See Your Film before Shooting (2008).Find this resource: