Film: A closer look at setting

22 Apr

The Lost Thing

Setting often plays a very important role in short film because it can reinforce the ideas the writer is trying to present. In the absence of a detailed plot, and complex characters, a good setting can help to add depth to both of these elements with out “getting in the way” or taking up too much time.

“Maybe there aren’t many lost things around anymore. Or maybe… maybe i’ve just stopped noticing. Too busy doing other stuff I guess”.

“The Lost Thing” film poster

Prediction: What do you think the film is going to be about?

What to look for…

Directors use a variety of techniques that help the setting to be more than just “a place where the story happens”. Think about some of these:

  • Colour: Black and white, bright, drab, contrast, change?
  • Space: Busy and cluttered, clean and tidy? Are the lines sharp and straight or round and bendy.
  • Style: This is a little harder to define. Does it look futuristic, realistic, from a particularly time period? Something else?

All of these aspects combine together to create a mood.

Mood: the atmosphere or feeling of a time or place

Task: create a mind map of the information above to take notes. 

TASK: Use these images to describe the setting by way of colour, style and space.

Setting and the point of the film

The Lost Thing (the teacup) represents life, fun, sunshine, and beautiful, interesting things. In Shaun’s world, this has been lost. How do we know this? 

Review: What is the mood in “The Lost Thing”?

TASK: How does the setting (and the mood) help us to understand this? Respond in a paragraph. 

Creating your setting

TASK: Return to one of the plots you have created. Use the drawing and collage to show how you want your setting to create a mood in your film.

Here’s an example:

Collage to brainstorm setting/mood



  • The traffic jam shows what the setting will look like.
  • The picture below, some washed-out mountains, is the kind of colour I want to use.
  • The jazz musicians is something new I found and would like to use to help build mood.
  • The flower is bright and contrasts the traffic jam. It is a change or turning point in my plot.

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