Developing your own filmmaking style is one of the hardest things you can do. However, we’re here to help you get well on your way to finding your style.
Your style can come from a lot of things. It can come from your experiences, emotions, memories, and even your equipment. Regardless, your style should come to you naturally through conscious and subconscious thinking about what seems aesthetically pleasing to you. One of the concepts you should be aware of is the elements of style. You need to know where your style is coming from before you can fully articulate that in your work.
Let’s go over all the elements:
Look at what strengths and weaknesses your camera body has? The camera you select really helps determine what your video ends up looking like. For example, is it good in low light or no? Depending on your answer, your shooting style will develop according to the limitations of your camera. You may even choose a camera based on the look it can give you once you have a better understanding of your tastes and style.
How you stabilize your camera can determine your style as well. Some directors like to have their videos super smooth and others like to have a handheld, shaky feel. Some may use lots of fluid gimbal shots while others prefer static shots taken from a tripod.
Framing and composition
Each director has their own way of framing a shot. You don’t always have to follow the Rule of Thirds. For instance, the filmmakers behind, Mad Max: Fury Road made the decision to keep the action in the center of the frame to make it hard for the eyes to search the frame between shots. It added to the action and intensity of the film. Make your framing and composition choices based on the emotions you want to convey.
Lighting is one of the biggest ways you can find your filmmaker style. Do you want your light to look pleasant and realistic? Or do you want something more surreal or spooky? Do you prefer high contrast lighting or soft shadows? Your light is going to be an important part of your own style.
Pay attention to the lighting next time you sit down to watch a movie. What does it communicate? What lighting techniques do you find most appealing?
Sound designers all have their own styles. Some like to stick to more realistic sounds while others like to go more extreme. For instance, there are many ways to add punching sound effects to a scene. You can have the usual action punch sound heard in Hollywood movies or you can have a huge, cartoony POW if that’s the kind of film you want to make.
Essentially, mise-en-scene refers to the look and feel of a movie. Roughly translated as “placed-in-scene,” mise-en-scene includes the appearance of your actors, their wardrobe, any props and the set design. Your choice in all of these things will be influenced by your tastes, which are reflected in your style.
For example, Tim Burton usually has a gothic style and works with a lot of the same actors. We know it is a Tim Burton film when we see those actors in their goth wardrobe and sets.
Cast and crew
As said above, many directors work with the same actors. It is the same thing for your crew. You may like working with a particular costumer and set designer. These people will inevitably influence the style of your productions, especially if you consistently work together.
You may like to film in a particular location. John Hughes’ films usually had some connection to Chicago. He shot most of his films in and around that area because it was his adopted hometown.
Story and themes
Last, but not least, the story and themes you are drawn too are a huge part of your style. Do you like slow, intense buildups or fast-paced, loud action? The types of stories that appeal to you will define your signature style as much as how you go about telling them.
It can take a lifetime to fully develop your filmmaking style, so keep at it if it doesn’t come right away. Your style has to come from experience and conscious analysis of your personal tastes. You have to work in different genres and styles to truly be able to define your personal style. And it is even possible for it to change over the years as you grow.
You can get a more in-depth look at this topic by reading “Leave Your Mark: Developing a Signature Style.”
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