The Style of the Author in Films
By Daniel Patiño
Developing your own style as an art films author is crucial in order to highlight yourself as a true artist. When you watch a Tim Burton movie you will always know that it is a Burton film. The same is for Godard, Lynch, or Jodorowsky as well. All these directors have some elements that you can watch in almost – if is not in all – every movie that they have directed before. This doesn’t mean that they are married to their specific style; they can always change aspects in their style according to the story and dramatic intention.
Some of you may think that talking about general “style” refers to the visual or physical appearance of the object but it doesn’t necessarily. In a movie, style can cover the film esthetic, as well as the character’s visions, music composition, points of view on big topics, all these regarding narrative aspects. For technical matters, camera angles, color correction, movie pace. Or aspects that involve narrative and technique like methods for directing actors or the management of timeline and so on.
In order to create your style as an author you must determine what you think are the most relevant aspects. And this is totally up to you, but my advice would be that first of all, you discover and understand why is it that you want to make a movie. What is your goal for making movies? Secondly, get conscious about what are your preferences when it comes to movies. What have you seen from other movies that you want in your movie? And thirdly, connect what you want as a director to what you have seen as a spectator. Always remember complete originality doesn’t exist, everybody is taking ideas all the time from other works (and authors) to put them into their works. The key is to take those ideas that you admire from other people and adapt them to your artistic essence making them authentically yours.
Take the example of movie stories. There are a lot of movies about Dracula but all of them are not the same. Not all are great or worthless. And that is because every director put his essence each time in a Dracula’s story making it more or less interesting. They got interested in different aspects of the story: the vampire, his condemnation as a blood sucker, the terror of people that surrounded him, his weakness, and so on. This kind of particularities enriches films giving almost unlimited formulas to one story for making it still interesting.
Getting back to the topic, every “new” story has sort of previously been told before, even when you imagine the most eccentric ones. This utterance must not be taken in a literal sense. What it pretends to state is that no matter what elements are used according to the time and space context, the main conflicts of stories remains basically the same. The key is not creating a story never told but to adapt your style and treatment to tell that story.
Consciously knowing your style as an author is not an easy task and it can take you years to understand how it actually works. Every time you face doubts in the middle of a script you are writing or a movie you are shooting you must answer yourself all the questions you may have about that specific doubt. This helps every time to improve your determination in your style. Take life as your main reference: How is it that you want to live? What is life for you? What are the life aspects that really matter to you? What have you learned about your parent’s lives that you don’t want to repeat? Now translate these questions into film style ones. How is it that you want to make movies? What is cinema for you? Which are the style elements that you must attend – according to your criterion- when shooting films? What have you noticed about styles in other film directors you admire? This is just an example that can give you the idea of how much you must question yourself when you have even a very specific doubt.
Then, it is substantially necessary to discover and appreciate lots of movies and director’s styles from completely different cultures and times to get the best picture between the movies you would like to make and the ones made by the directors you admire. Maybe you don’t wish to reveal your personal tastes – Which I found highly difficult, not impossible (as you please, give it a try) – in your work as an author film director; more specifically, you are not interested in being influenced by another filmmaker at all. In that case, you would still have to watch lots of films: You wouldn’t like to do something similar to anything that has been done recently or some other time in the past!
In conclusion, the worst thing you can do is not to define your style when making movies. I personally have seen some short films that are almost technically perfect but without a visible style making the whole film to knock down. But I also have seen other pieces of work with a lot of style but with a poor quality story. If you want to define your style in movies, there must be a meticulous balance between the story and its quality, how is it that you’re going to tell it (style and treatment), and the standard technical aspects (this comes ultimately). That, and watch tons of classic and new or any kind of films for sure!
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