In a previous post, Masking the Action, I discussed how action scenes in action movies are often hard to see due to the frequent camera movements. When the shaky camera effect is also thrown in, it further masks the action and makes it even harder to see what is going on in the scene. The shaky camera effect is prevalent in almost all current action movies. In fact, the shaky camera effect is overused that if you were to type in “shaky cam” into the Google search engine you are likely to receive large amounts of negative feedback of it, but it is important to understand that it isn’t necessarily bad to use shaky camera in action sequences. The shaky camera has to stylistically match the movie and directors in Hollywood seem to have forgotten that. As long as directors are willing to use shaky camera for the chaotic in the situation feel without thinking about how it matches with the entirety of the movie, it will not be possible for Hollywood to break out from this trend.
The Bourne Trilogy, directed by Paul Greengrass, is a good example of how shaky camera and an action scene work together. Chris Stuckman states in his video “this guy knows how to use shaky cam and he knows how to use it as a style and he knows how to use it where it’s appropriate. He doesn’t mask poor storytelling or poor stunt work with shaky cam like some films do. He uses it as a stylistic expression for the moment that he is trying to convey in the film.” Bourne Trilogy movies are filled with shaky camera but it works well because it stylistically matches the movie. In an article from Cinema Shock, the author makes four points in why it works: The world he lives in, his inner conflict, the way his mind works, and shaky cam as a stylistic choice. The Bourne Trilogy is about a CIA assassin who has to figure out his identity while running from other assassins. The shaky camera effect works because as a whole, it fits with the premise of the movie and it works well in an action scene.
In an interview with Paul Greengrass by Cinemablend regarding the Bourne movie, the director says “I always try and bring screenplay, shooting, and editing as close in alignment as you possible can get them, consistent.” Paul Greengrass makes sure that the way that he shoots the movie is “in alignment” with screenplay, meaning that they have to be able to go hand in hand. Shaky camera should not be used just because it is popular and easy to do. Directors need to think about how it fits in stylistically with the movie as a whole. Hollywood directors have the potential to break this trend and I am not saying that they need to stop using the shaky camera. We have seen action movies before that have not used shaky camera and were considered amazing, so why not try Hollywood?