If there is one defining quality that unites the world’s most iconic filmmakers – those who can boast both critical acclaim and cult status – it is a unique, distinctive, unmistakable style that sets them apart from their counterparts.
From the pregnant pauses and surreal dreamscapes of a David Lynch film to the dramatic lighting and chilling suspense of a Hitchcock thriller or the darkly comic, macabre twist of a Tim Burton fantasy, a great director should be instantly identifiable to the audience by his ‘voice’ alone.
Take Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers – so distinctive and influential are their styles they have even earned a place in the dictionary. According to the Collins dictionary, 'Tarantinoesque' is “(cinema) referring to or reminiscent of the work of the American film-maker and actor Quentin Tarantino (born 1963), known for the violence, style, and wit of his films” while 'Coenesque' is “(cinema) reminiscent of the work US film-makers of Joel and Ethan Coen (born 1954 and 1957 respectively), featuring bizarre and involved plots, use of irony and black humour, and allusions to film classics.”
The sign of a great director is when a film’s voice comes not from the script or the protagonists, but from the filmmaker. As advocates of the auteur theory suggest, it is the camera angles, the lighting, the scene-length and the spaces between the dialogue that tell the story, above any plot-line.
But how does the filmmaker ensure his or her ‘voice’ is heard? And how, as a first-time filmmaker, do you find your unique voice in the first place?
We’ve looked at the philosophies, influences and creative processes of some of the world’s leading auteur-directors to find out what lessons they can teach us about finding that all-important voice.