The Director’s Vision: What Is It and How Does It Influence Your Filmmaking Techniques?

By Lorne Guy

Director's Vision

How can the same story, same script, same actors be directed by two different Directors create such contrasting films with a feel or tone that might be streets apart? This is a result of the Director’s Vision.

Consider how two very similar genre films with similar thoughtful central characters, similar action sequences can have a completely different effect on how an audience reacts and thinks about a film subject e.g. Saving Private Ryan (Dir. Spielberg 1998) vs The Thin Red Line (Dir. Malik. 1998).

So how do you want to communicate your story or script?

Tone. Although a Director shouldn’t be a slave to an audience it is important to consider what your audience might feel at a given point. For example how does the camera angle, composition, movement, sound or lighting transfer a feel to an audience? Hitchcock and good horror film directors are often masters of this.

The Director has many elements to consider from a technical standpoint (e.g. behind the camera) including editing, to in front of the camera e.g. actors performance, set, costume, location etc. But these should all serve the idea the Director has for the story and importantly how this is to be told to the audience. Mike Leigh creates a brilliant performance led style to give story realism, allowing the actor room to create in the moment, but this may also lead to technical complications too which need to be considered once editing begins. Is your vision wrapped up in a theme or a complicated human condition or a conflicting story question? Your actors may find this useful to know when creating their characters.

As Directors you may begin to ‘see’ visions or images of the film as you read the script. What sounds or locations does it evoke? What basic emotion does a scene create? Then how will you technically and creatively communicate this? For example what camera style will you adopt? Are the majority of shots static tripod allowing the story to enter the space, or will you follow the action? How close are we as an audience? Are we observing the story (3rd person) e.g. mids, wides etc., or are we actively involved, for example think back to those action sequences in Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red line. Is it subjective? Taking us into the inner feelings of the main character e.g. Trainspotting (Dir. Boyle 1996) drug overdose scene. What lenses? Wide angle character close up, or long lens distant character; what do these evoke?

Consider how your camera composition, sound, lighting, editing, music AND actor performance will serve your idea and thoughts on what you want the audience to see, think and feel. Are you creating one amazing shot just to show you can or is it serving the story? Think about the story and audience as a whole when the actor wants to extend those two lines to a monologue or the Cam Op wants to extend that 3sec shot to a 50sec tracking shot. Do these serve your story and thematic vision? Will you include images or symbolic moments (e.g. Wasp (Dir. Arnold 2003) the wasp in the window shot).

A Director needs to consider, although not necessarily be an expert, in all the ingredients going into the film. This is where a good creative team that communicates and prepares well will pay dividends.

Lorne Guy is a Senior Lecturer in Film at the University of Winchester, and also runs Good Guys Productions.

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