Issue #175 – August 20, 2017
(Story, Performance, Cinematics)
“Making a (good) movie is the art of visually telling a compelling story with believable characters who make us feel something.”
If you agree with my definition of making a good movie, how DO you make a film that has a compelling story with believable characters who make us feel something?
Many scriptwriters, directors, producers, studios etc. have tried to find a winning formula for making a successful movie by copying films that have worked in the past. Some of these films have been successful – most have not.
But making a “successful” film depends on your definition of success. You must first decide what “a successful film” means to you: Did the audiences love it? Did the critics love it? Did it win awards? Did it make money?
During my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work on many different types of productions, from industrial films to documentaries; television commercials to music videos; Emmy Award nominated TV series to Hollywood feature films.
As a film directing coach, I’ve spent countless hours mentoring filmmakers around the world – from showing them how to conduct proper script analysis to helping them effectively direct actors during an audition.
I’ve also had the incredible opportunity of spending years teaching and mentoring hundreds of film students as they write, prep, shoot and edit their short films.
I believe that all the years I’ve spent in the “professional film production trenches” plus all the years I’ve been teaching filmmakers around the world, has given me a unique insight into finding an answer to the question:
“Is there a simple guide that directors anywhere can follow that will help them to demystify and better understand the craft of filmmaking?”
We all know there’s no 100% guarantee of anything being successful in our business, but I believe I have found a basic guide that any filmmaker can follow to help them create “compelling movies with believable characters.”
In my opinion, most inexperienced (or lazy) directors spend the majority of their time figuring out how to shoot their films first (cool visual effects, creative shots and camera angles etc.) before they understand a) what their story is really about and b) what their characters really want. And from what I have witnessed over the years, this is not the best way to make a good film!
Why? Because I strongly believe that to successfully direct a “visually compelling story with believable characters”, you should follow (in order) this 3-step film directing guide: “Story – Performance – Cinematics!”
Story: The first and most important part of a director’s job is to understand every detail of the story you are about to tell and this requires you to dig deep into the story and it’s structure by analyzing each individual scene in the script to find out what it is about, what works and what doesn’t.
Performance: One of the main responsibilities of a Director is to help actors achieve a realistic performance. Actors want to work with directors who understand their vulnerability, so it’s incredibly important to create a good relationship with every actor on your film – right from the first audition!
Cinematics (Mise-en-Scene): Originating from the theater, the French term mise en scène literally means “putting on the stage.” In cinema, mise-en-scène refers to everything that is shown in front of the camera such as sets, props, actors, costumes, lighting etc.
I believe that without understanding these 3 steps you could set yourself up for “filmmaker mediocrity” which is writing unimaginative scripts with unbelievable characters that create boring and predictable films.
As a visual storyteller you must always listen to your heart so your camera can show us your version of life and art and from what I have witnessed over my career, if you follow this 3-step film directing guide you will see how any director, even someone with very little experience, has the potential to create a visually compelling movie with believable characters.
ActionCutPrint.com Peter D. Marshall
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