Before we begin our quick look into how Quentin Tarantino captures such a light flavor in films that often have ultra-serious themes, it's important to learn a bit about the camera slate. This is the piece of equipment that is used to help the sync the sound and the image during the film making process.
This is a great look at what the slate is, and how it's used:
Pretty interesting, right? That little piece of equipment may look simple, but using it well and accurately is very important, and it's tricky to make sure everything is labeled properly on film sets that are often chaotic and jumbled. But remember that the slate is what opens every scene. That clack means it's time to get to work actually shooting the scene, and everyone on the set knows it.
Geraldine Brezca has operated the slate on a large number of Quentin Tarantino's movies, and her methods are ... interesting. Watch the video of her in action, and pay attention to the fact that the actors are reacting to damned near every joke.
Sometimes they laugh, sometimes they look surprised, but they never seem to know exactly what she's going to say. In many cases it looks as if the tone of the scene is set by the clacker operator, which is kind of amazing. Before the scene begins, Brezca breaks the tension or gets in the actor's heads. It's a blast to watch, and they often interact with her as well.
Now, Tarantino has worked with her a number of times, which means that she's doing something right. It's fun to think that a role on the set that's often so invisible may have been this important on movies like Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained.
This video has been around a few years now, but it's an interesting look at an aspect of film that is rarely discussed. There is something to be said for someone changing the tone in the room right before the scene begins, and whatever rut the actors may have fallen into could be rattled out of place by Brezca yelling "Geniuuuuuus" right before the scene begins.