Frame of Mind: Take Advantage of Darkness to Craft Jump Scares, Says Camera Obscura Director Aaron B. Koontz (Video)

What makes a scene work?

Does it lie in the carefully executed plans of a film’s cast and crew? Or does the magic rest upon fortuitous mistakes, spontaneity and improvisation? What steps must be taken to convey your vision and intent? Watch our video series, Frame of Mind, to get answers to these questions and more from commentators working in a wide variety of areas in production who’ll guide you through clips from their films, in their own words. Moviemakers and film fans: Grab your notepads, popcorn, or both, and press play.


There’s a strange matter-of-factness about the way in which war photographers do their jobs, and the movies have depicted the responsibility they shoulder as one of adventure, sometimes of shameless opportunism and, almost invariably, of inevitable trauma. In director/co-writer Aaron B. Koontz’s horror-thriller Camera Obscura, the traumatic aspect of this particular call of duty is ramped up to a fever pitch, as the film centers on Jack (Christopher Denham), an ex-war photographer whose post-war picture-taking triggers terrifying visions and deathly prophecies about the locations at which he shoots.

In the videos below (the first of which is an exclusive clip from the film), Koontz offers commentary on the making of two major sequences from Camera Obscura. The lighting and atmospheric effects achieved with 9K and 1.8K cameras; stunt coordination; digital storyboarding; invisible cuts (or, as Koontz calls them, “Platoon cuts”); the movements of carefully planned steadi-cam shots and more are discussed, here, to give some insight into what went into crafting taught fight scenes and jump scares.

What did you take away from Koontz’s frame of mind? Let us know in the comments below.

Camera Obscura opens in theaters June 9, 2017 and on VOD and Digital HD June 13, 2017, courtesy of Chiller Films.

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