Have you ever wanted to find your own voice and style?
I remember being interviewed by a producer that was looking for a director. He was looking for a specific type of voice and style for his production and asked me to describe my voice. Back then, I didn’t know better than to say somewhere between tenor and baritone.
But he, of course, wanted to understand my visual voice as a director. I realized that studying a handful of directors and their styles would help me better understand my style. So I thought this article might help you do the same.
The first step is understanding the labels used to describe existing notable styles.
The art of filmmaking has come a long way since its inception in the late 19th century. The early pioneers of cinema are responsible for laying the foundation of this artistic medium, which has influenced society, culture, and politics.
Over the years, several great film directors have emerged, each bringing their unique style and creativity to the screen. With each style comes a platform to make a significant contribution to the industry and our culture.
When I mention box office dollars, they are the current ones on the day I published this article and were provided by The-Numbers.com.
Steven Spielberg brought in $10.7B in ticket sales worldwide and has won three Academy Awards, including two for Best Director (Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan). Two of his most successful films are “Jurassic Park” (1993) and “Jaws” (1975).
Spielberg invented the blockbuster style with the release of “Jaws” and is known for his ability to create engaging and emotional stories that resonate with audiences worldwide. His signature film was E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982).
James Cameron is right on Spielberg’s heels, with gross receipts of $8.7B. However, if you thought his films brought in more than Spielberg’s, you would be right. It took Spielberg 36 films to hit $10.7B, and Cameron hit $8.7B with 14 films. He is likely to surpass Spielberg within the next five years. However, these numbers are only based on what the artists did as directors. Spielberg’s box office dollars as a DreamWorks producer are not counted in this report.
Cameron is best known for The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), Titanic (1997), and Avatar (2009). All of which were so popular they became franchises.
Cameron’s style is action-driven. His characters are always type-A personalities and often command each other. To further drive the story, Cameron is known for switching between sound effects and music to shift the audience’s emotions. His technique might even drop the soundtrack to near-silence and then build suspense with the volume to draw the audience to the edge of their seats.
Regarded as the “Master of Suspense,” Alfred Hitchcock, an English film director, was known for his innovative camera techniques and ability to manipulate audiences’ emotions. His films were a perfect blend of horror, suspense, and drama. Two of his most successful films are “Psycho” (1960) and “Vertigo” (1958).
During his career, Hitchcock developed many techniques that altered cinema. He dedicated his legacy to pioneering innovations in film grammar. For instance, he created the zoom dolly shot where the camera zooms in while it is being dollied out, creating visual disorientation and emotional destabilization.
Hitchcock also popularized the MacGuffin. A MacGuffin (muh-GUFF-in) is an object, character, or event in a story that keeps the plot in motion despite lacking intrinsic value or importance. In Star Wars, George Lucas used R2D2 as a MacGuffin.
While Hitchcock was deemed one of the greatest directors of all time, he never won an Oscar for Best Director. Still, his style revolutionized the industry, brought him 32 prestigious awards, and pleased droves of audiences for several generations.
Martin Scorsese’s films reflect the gritty realities of life, infused with elements of violence, crime, and passion. He added to the legitimizing of profanity and violence more than other directors. He bared the souls of his characters to reveal their darkness, complexity, irony, and contradictions.
He grew up in Little Italy during the 1960s, where boys had two career choices: the priesthood or the mafia. He found a third alternative in filmmaking where he explored the good and bad within him. If there was a rule to break in filmmaking, Scorsese would find a way to break it.
He won numerous awards, including an Academy Award for Best Director for his film “The Departed” (2006). His other successful films include “Goodfellas” (1990) and “Taxi Driver” (1976).
I could share another 100 directors that impacted society due to their stylistic choices. But the examples I’ve given are a good start in helping you realize that what a director brings to the industry, based on who they are, impacts the way the film informs culture. Therefore, if a director wants to impact our culture, he or she must find their voice and style.
Copyright © 2023 by CJ Powers