The job of a film director is very subjective, and would undoubtably be defined countless different ways depending on who is defining it. I’ve written a lot on this blog about how the director’s role has changed throughout the years from being primarily focused on directing actors, to now having a hand in every facet of the creative process – One thing that has not changed though, and in fact is more relevant now than ever, is the importance of having a unique and identifiable point of view.
What Is Point Of View?
I would define point of view as the creative choices that you make throughout the filmmaking process that convey your story in a way that truthfully represents how you see the world.
A great screenplay could be interpreted an infinite amount of ways by different directors, as they all will have their own vision for the story and unique perspective on how to tell it. One director might tell it as a dark drama, while the other creates a satire, even when working from an identical script. Point of view is really everything. It’s worth noting though, that you don’t need to be an experienced director to have a point of view, it’s something that we all have inherently. Think about the last time you read a novel and then went to see the movie version afterwards. Chances are it looked a lot different than you had pictured in your head, because the director’s point of view differed from yours to some degree. This is probably why so many adapted novels fail as films… But the bottom line is that your point of view is the number one differentiator between your artistry and the next director’s, so it’s extremely important for you to tap into it to separate your voice from theirs.
How To Identify Your Point Of View
There’s no formula for finding your voice as a filmmaker, but there are certainly some techniques and ideas that I can share with you that will help you get to the bottom of it. The first is taking a look at the work of others that you admire. You might equally respect Fincher and Spielberg, but who’s films connect with you more? Speaking for myself, there are directors (Quentin Tarantino for example) who’s films I love, but that have a point of view so different from my own that I wouldn’t consider to be influential to me creatively (even though I’ll be first in line to see the next QT flick on opening night).
As an easy exercise, try to highlight the films and filmmakers that really speak to you, not just out of respect for what they do, but more so out of the personal connection that you have with their work. Once you do that it will be easier to see what it is that draws you to those films. Maybe it’s a certain type of character, or maybe a specific theme that is shared amongst the different films. Whatever those elements may be, as a first step to finding your point of view, try to really identify at least a few common threads in the work of others that you enjoy. From there you can put the focus on your own existing body of work –
If you’ve already made a film (or multiple films), written a script, or explored any other creative outlet, take a second look at your work again. Just like the exercise above, try to look at your own work from a new perspective and pick apart the themes and ideas that you tend to come back to. Some of them may be obvious to you without even revisiting your work, but you will certainly find some new shared traits between your projects when looking at them under a microscope. If these are more or less consistent with the themes, characters, and ideas that you enjoy in the work of other filmmakers, you are well on your way to highlighting the elements that you need to focus on to get your message conveyed effectively on film. And if you don’t have a big body of work to tap into, try some free association exercises. Write a short film front to back in an hour, or a character breakdown without overthinking it. Just let the words come out and look back to see where your subconscious mind goes naturally. No matter who you are, you will always come back to some of the same themes and ideas – all you need to do is look for them.
Putting It Into Practice
Understanding the importance of your point of view and identifying it, are two of the three steps that you need to tap into your voice as a filmmaker. The third is actually putting it into practice. The good news is, I happen to think this is the easiest step as once you have truly found your voice, everything else will naturally fall into place as long as you are continually aware of what you are trying to say. Make sure that you’re consciously aware of the characteristics of your point of view at every single stage of your production, and you will inevitably get your message across. Think about it before you direct your actors, when you’re communicating with your cinematographer, during your editing sessions and everywhere in between. All you need to do is remember where you’re coming from. It may be easier said than done as there are a lot of distractions during the filmmaking process on and off set, but if you force yourself to zero in on your own voice, you’ll be just fine.
Film Directors vs TV Directors
One last thing that I’ll leave you with that might help to highlight the role of the director’s point of view, is the difference between that of a film director and a television director. Think of a film director as someone that has truly tapped into their own point of view and who’s job it is to convey that, and a television director as someone who’s job it is to convey someone else’s point of view. Directing your own personal film is a very subjective thing as you are literally showing the audience how you see the world through your own lens. TV directors on the other hand, most often step into an existing project or series and are there to maintain the overall feel and tone of the larger picture, ultimately having less of their own point of view in the final product, and more of someone else’s. There are exceptions to this of course, but generally TV directors and film directors are different personalities entirely and require a different set of skills.
For more on directing, check out my recent article on Making The Distinction Between Being A Visual Director Or A Performance Director.