FEMO equation: cinematographer's checklist

FEMO is a checklist. Its purpose it to check that you are indeed creating a more cinematic frame. It’s a reminder that we are working with film, a medium that is about time and hence motion; that the film frame is a key hole (not a picture frame), that it allows to show life from a vintage point, unthinkable prior to film.

FEMO equation does not claim to be a visual design concept and is not meant to spare the filmmaker from the need to do thorough visual research to find the perfect visual key to their idea. But it’s useful for the chaos of production especially if the cinematographer is the director herself.
F is Frame within Frame. It is an old photography principle. In film, it attracts attention to the perspective, to the relationship between subject and context and graphically reinforces the depth.

E stands for Extremes: Extreme Close Up or Extreme Wide Shots. We don’t see the world in Medium Shots, we see people in WS or EWS or in CU or ECU. Look deeper into human face, step back and show us where we are, what frames our fragile but wilful bodies.

M is for Motion. Something has to move in every film frame: the character, leaves in the wind, light on the wall, eye lashes… or the camera itself. Movement is time. Film is about time.

O is for Obstruction. Shoot through leaves, gates, passers by, hallways, windows, half open doors, etc. It makes viewers “work” a bit in order to see, so they are more engaged, and again, emphasizes the depth of the film frame.