‘(500) Days of Summer’ and How to Shoot the Same Scene Two Ways

It's important to balance your expectations ... just like it's important to use different focal lengths to convey different levels of intimacy.
Days Of Summer Expectations Reality

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that offers a breakdown of the “expectations vs. reality scene from the movie (500) Days of Summer.

Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a greeting-card writer, an aspiring architect, and a hopeless romantic. When his girlfriend Summer (Zooey Deschanel) unexpectedly dumps him, Tom is left in a daze that pushes him to reflect on the 500 days of their relationship.

As is the case with many a break-up, Tom and Summer wind up crossing paths once again. They bump into one another on a train en-route to a wedding and reconnect. In Tom’s fantasy-prone brain, their evening together — and Summer’s invitation to come to a party at her apartment — can only mean one thing: she is still interested.

As Tom skips over to the party, flowers and party favor in hand, the screen splits in two. On the left, we’re presented with Tom’s expectations for the night he hopes will be an intimate rekindling of their past relationship. On the right is what actually transpires, the reality of boundary-heavy hugs and solo-beer drinking.

Unpacking the differences between the two scenes is a marvelous case study in cinematic decision-making. Upon closer inspection, director Marc Webb makes a surprising amount of minute, but powerful, technical choices that greatly impact our perception of each scene.

The following video essay unpacks the ways that Webb approached shooting the “Expectations vs. Reality” scene from (500) Days of Summer, from differing focal lengths to how characters are framed, and from composition to set dressing. Turns out shooting the same scene two different ways is a lot harder than you’d think.

Watch “500 Days of Summer Expectations vs Reality — Directing the Same Scene in Two Ways”:

Who made this?

This video about the “expectations vs. reality” scene in (500) Days of Summer was created by StudioBinder, a production management software creator that also happens to produce wildly informative video essays. They tend to focus on the mechanics of filmmaking itself, from staging to pitches and directorial techniques. You can check out their YouTube account here.

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