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Examining the Scene: S01E01 ‘Pilot’

By nato64,

  Filed under: Lost, Lost Recaps, reWatching Lost
  Comments: 25

Hello dear readers! In review of my previous Mise en scène articles which were extremely laborious to write, I’ve settled on what I think it’s a great compromise. I didn’t want to dull down my review of any given episode and breeze over juicy details. That’s what filmmaking is all about, the subtlety of things you didn’t know affect you.

In my new series, “Examining the Scene,” I will pick two to three unique, important scenes that stick out to me as special in terms of the way they are shot, cut, and directed.

With my Season 1 & 2 Blu-rays in hand, I’ve finally begun the LOST rewatch. In my first examination of a scene from the Pilot, I look at the first flashback to to before the crash. 21 minutes into the show, we get a glimpse of what the characters were like pre-crash. This is somewhat pivotal to the series, establishing the flashback for what will become the show’s major staple.

We start of with an establishing shot quickly letting the audience know where and when we are. This episode (and the next) don’t utilize the flashback sfx so they’re strictly relying on visuals to indicate when we are. The shot dollys back to reveal our main character: Jack.

lost_s01e01-001 lost_s01e01-002

Notice how Cindy is in a medium shot (MS)(waist and above) while Jack is in a medium close-up (MCU)(chest-and-above).

Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot
– Charlie Chaplin


This scene is a little funny and cute. Compared to the first 20 minutes of the Pilot, this scene is down right hilarious. It’s the first departure form the dark and dreary plane crash. However, we don’t cut the medium shot of Jack right away. Staying closer on him and farther away on Cindy keeps us connected the main character. Until Jack laughs and we cut to a further away shot (indicating to us it’s funny):


As the scene dies down we’re back in the close-ups:


Then something interesting happens…



We stay on Jack for a long… long… time. Staying this close, not cutting to anything, it makes the audience nervous. Horror films do this constantly. It’s not about the big BOO, it’s about the anticipation, taking the audience to the edge. A common horror technique goes something like this: see girl walk around suburban house looking for the noise she just heard, stay on her, silent, all we hear is her footsteps; then we hear something off screen; she goes to investigate as we yell at the screen, “don’t open that door!” When she opens the door, it’s actually just her puppy that was making the noise. How cute. Relieved that there’s not a murderer in her house, she turns around and BAM there’s the guy in the mask with a giant knife!

Sound familiar? Well, here, we stay on Jack and his drink. We know the plane crashes. We know it’s coming. We know where they all end up… BUMP. “This is it!” we shout. But it’s not. It’s just turbulence. Then Jack sees that his neighbor is getting nervous.


They have an interesting moment where she tells a story of how her husband lets her know that everything is OK.

Look at this close up of Jack:


Don’t you just trust this guy? The shot is almost dead-on, as if he’s looking right at us to tell us everything is OK.

Too bad it’s not…


Cut to…

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  • richie

    some good calls there, nice read!

  • dappawit

    Excellent article, as always. Thanks for all the time and effort you put into it, and I can’t wait for your next posting.

  • Thomas

    Does water vapor in the form of a white cloud normally pass by a window at 30,000 feet?

    I can’t honestly remember ever seeing that phenomenon when I’ve flown, say, to Hawaii.

    The reason I ask, of course, is that IF this is not normal, then what did I see on the other side of Jack’s window? Since the plane was experiencing technical difficulties long before Desmond failed to “push the button” (a communications problem, six hours into the flight), I’m wondering if black smoke monster might have a white relative. Jacob, perhaps?

    • adam118

      Dude, you’re seeing things in clouds.

  • adam118

    Nato, this shit is so ridiculously awesome. I’m figuring out how to write screenplays, and your breakdowns are very helpful in learning camera shots and such.
    mad props

    • Kermet

      Let me recommend “Cinematic Storytelling” by Jennifer Van Sull for understanding the “meaning” behind certain camera shots.

      However, for writing a screenplay, if you are not directing/producing it yourself, then you want to avoid calling for camera shots.

    • Benmanben

      Same here.

      • Benmanben

        Same here as to Adam118

  • Nato, my rewatch reached 3:10 already, and the funny thing is that I pay attention all the time now if the folks walk from right to left or not ;))

  • neoloki

    I didn’t know quite where to post this, but I recently got season 1 on Blu-ray and have been storming through the episodes. Well, I am currently watching The Greater Good and on the menu under episodes it gives the title but they have added “aka Sides” to the title: so now it says The Greater Good aka Sides. I have never seen this before. It wasn’t on the original DVD which I also own. Has anybody else heard this episode referred to as Sides? Any info would be appreciated.

    • Sides might have been the original title or an alternative title for non-domesitc promotion. A quick google search brings up the title Sides along with The Greater Good. Maybe we should ask it to the Official Podcast 🙂

  • Summertime

    Great post Nato. Although I wish it was longer. 🙂
    I have learned alot from your posts and notice so many of the things you’ve talked about. Thank you so much. I look forward to many more of your insights.

  • donuteyes

    hey, i saw a great curb your enthusiasm the other day, could you break down that show as well?

    • Haha that show might not break down as well. Improv means less planning in terms of shooting and cutting. It’s all very on the fly.

      I will be doing more features in the fall on TVOvermind for shows like Fringe, V, etc. Narrative shows that play out more like mini-films.

  • Uncle Beaver

    I don’t know anything, really, about how movies/TV are made and how the directors and DP’s figure out how and why to compose their shots, but your articles shed lots of light on the meaning behind it all. Do you have any suggestions for books, etc. that might help the average idiot understand the art of Film Direction?

    Thanks for an informative and enjoyable article.

    • Surprisingly, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Independent Filmmaking (Chapter 19) does a great gloss-over of everything I talk about.

      To be honest, finding the meaning is relatively easy once you learn to listen to how a certain cut or shot makes you feel. There is no rulebook but there are rules, if that makes sense. Films like Breathless intentionally break traditional filmmaking rules for a creative point. I had an argument the other day with my roommate (who’s a director) on what low angle shots mean versus high-angle shots. I learned that low-angle shots show power. It shows the character big, strong, larger than life. While high-angle shots show characters weak, small, and insignificant. His argument was that high-angle shots show the character grounded, in control, and thus powerful while low-angle shots showed sky around the character, showed them not in control of the world. We both cited examples in different films and came to the conclusion that no one is right. There are different schools of thought. Such is art 🙂

      • Kermet

        It’s a matter of juxtaposition and context. You do an excellent job of getting at the intent of each shot because you take the time to analyze what came before it (i.e. the first twenty minutes of the pilot vs. the initial action of the flashback). In reality, you’re both right…depending on the context the artist places the shot in.

    • Kermet

      “Cinematic Storytelling” Jennifer Van Sull – as recommended above.

  • jojo

    Oh, what a tease. Keep going….pleeeeese.

  • SLS

    Awesome post!

  • Kermet

    Nato – On the tracking shot you point out we’re moving left to right. Notice that in the West this is a natural style of reading. It makes us comfortable. Therefore, we’re more inclined to like Jack. Then Kate enters right of screen. She goes against our natural flow, plus she’s behind him. “Watch your back, Jack.” Can we trust her? Then the rack focus. We may not be able to see her clearly just yet, but Jack does. So we can trust Kate for now, because Jack does.

  • spacebender

    Excellent, as always! Thanks for the enriching post.

  • rosered2318

    Awesome! Thanks so much – I could read your stuff for days.

  • This is exactly what I’m doing. I didn’t want to rereview all the old episodes again so I’m just concentrating on the exciting scenes. I’mc alling it Vital Scnes, but it’s essentially the same. Check out what I have so far here:
    – izi