Finding Your Visual Voice

Have you ever wanted to find your own voice and style? 

I was at a lunch meeting where a producer asked me about my directing style. He asked what I did to develop it while I was in between gigs. Today, I’ll share what I told him—the 5 strategies that will help you find and hone your visual voice.

Many of you have heard me say a motion picture is filled with visual language like a book is filled with literary language. I’ve also said that the cinematic story is an argument, like the written prose at the beginning of a larger work. For the argument to convince the audience, the author or director must find his or her voice to authentically tell their story. 

Filmmaking is a complex art form that involves various styled elements such as storytelling, cinematography, sound design, and editing. For new directors, finding their voice in making films can be a challenging but crucial step toward developing a distinct style and creating work that resonates with audiences. 

To help filmmakers find their voice, I’ll go over some of the easiest strategies to explore.

1. Watch and Analyze Films from Different Genres and Eras

One of the best ways to find your voice as a director is to study and analyze the work of other filmmakers. Watch films from different genres and eras. Pay attention to the storytelling techniques, camera angles, and editing choices. 

Take notes on what works and what doesn’t work in each film, and try to identify the elements that make each director’s work unique. You will find certain elements that ring true to who you are and develop a natural taste for certain choices and styles. 

Then pull out your phone and shoot videos reflecting the elements you gravitate toward. It doesn’t have to be high quality, as this step is simply for practice.

2. Write, Write, Write

As a director, your primary job is to tell stories. Therefore, it’s crucial to develop your storytelling skills. Write scripts, short stories, or even jot down ideas for scenes or characters. Writing can help you clarify your ideas and develop your storytelling voice. 

Don’t worry about being perfect. Keep writing and revising until you find story elements or a story that resonates with you.

3. Collaborate with Other Filmmakers

Filmmaking is a collaborative process, and working with other filmmakers can help you find your voice as a director. Collaborating with writers, cinematographers, sound designers, and editors can expose you to different styles and techniques. You’ll even pick up on elements that will help you develop your creative process. 

Be open to feedback and suggestions, and don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. Find inspiration in your personal experiences and perspectives. They can be a valuable source of inspiration for your films. 

Also, think about the stories you want to tell and the themes you want to explore. Draw from your life experiences to create authentic and relatable characters and situations. This can help you develop a unique voice that resonates with audiences.

4. Embrace Your Weaknesses and Limitations

As a new director, you may feel limited by your lack of resources or experience. However, these limitations can be an asset in helping you find your voice. Embrace your weaknesses and limitations, and use them to your advantage. 

Instead of trying to replicate the work of other filmmakers with more resources, focus on developing a style unique to your circumstances and resources.

5. Take Risks and Experiment

Finally, finding your voice as a director requires taking risks and experimenting with different techniques and styles. Be brave and try new things, even if they don’t always work out. Failure can be a valuable learning experience and help you refine your creative process and find your voice.

Finding your voice as a new director requires studying and analyzing other filmmakers’ work, writing and developing your own stories, collaborating with other filmmakers, drawing inspiration from your personal experiences, embracing your limitations, and taking risks with experimentation. 

By following these strategies, new directors can develop a distinct style and create work that resonates with audiences.

Copyright © 2023 by CJ Powers


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