Distinguished Directors

So… directors. Wikipedia defines a film director as someone who “controls a film’s artistic and dramatic aspects and visualizes the screenplay (or script) while guiding the technical crew and actors in the fulfillment of that vision.” I think this is a great definition because it truly encompasses how vital directors are from a film’s beginnings to its distribution.

In my experience, when a movie earns the title of ‘blockbuster’ or just becomes really popular, usually the actors and the directors are the ones I hear earning the praise in the news. While other crew members also deserve so much recognition and praise for their hard work, today I am going to focus on the importance of directors in a film.

The directors (or directors) are the people who drive the movie forward and keep its momentum going. Most directors have usually performed other jobs in the film studio before they went to directing. I know many professionals recommend that directors have worked in other jobs in the studio because then you’ll have a better understanding of what needs to happen in a specific shoot and you’ll know who to tell to get it done (or you can even do it yourself because you know how)!

Film Director | Olivia Abtahi

In the video above, which I found to be very useful and insightful, Olivia Abtahi explains her job as a film director and what she recommends for those who wish to become film directors. This video really showed me how directors act as the backbone of their projects because they are likely the ones who have been involved from start to finish in developing the film. So, it would make sense how when we watch a movie from a well-known director, we start to see some of their signature shots (for example) or we start to see how they portray their certain sense of humor in movies.

Again, while we should understand that the director isn’t the sole person who provides input on their films, they are the ones who make the decisions final so I will be focusing on them in this article today.

For todays topic “directors”, I looked up a few of my favorite movies and shows to see who their directors were. It was super hard to narrow it down, but my top few were: John Hughes from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), Alice Wu from The Half of It (2020), and Shawn Levy from Stranger Things 1, 2, & 3 (2016-). Wow, it was super difficult to narrow that down, but those are probably some of my favorites at the moment. I definitely have a bunch more that I love, and ironically, many of them made their best movies during the 80s, but that’s for a different article (coming soon).

(L to R) Shawn Levy, Alice Wu, John Hughes

First, I’ll talk about my favorite director of all time: John Hughes. It seems like every movie I watch of his, I fall in love with for like 6 months and I can’t go two weeks without watching it. I also noticed how that whenever I watch one of his movies, I can really tell it is his. It’s like he has this certain world that all his movies exist in simultaneously and I think that is so cool to think about while watching his movies. So, one think that I plan to take with me into my career from his directing style is to think about giving your films a certain ‘vibe’ so people can know that your experiences and ideas were a vital part of the film. That isn’t to say that you have to like make it blaringly obvious that the movie is yours, but you know, just add some personal touches were you can to make it more authentic.

Next up is Alice Wu. I was introduced to one of her movies about three or four days ago and I thought it was great! It was definitely an unconventional movie, at least to me, because it wasn’t your typical sappy teen romance (The Half of It). I think this movie really stood out to me because of the setting. It was in a really small town, called Squahamish, and the color grading (done during editing), the props, and the entire setting in general gave off this whole ‘vibe’ that I rarely experience in a movie. I felt like I had actually visited this town before and watching the movie really wanted to make me go back. One thing I will take away from this movie, and therefore Alice Wu’s directing skills is to make things personal. This sounds similar to what I said about John Hughes, but I mean it in the sense that the film should really embrace the participation of the audience. Even if the film isn’t realistic, I think that it is important to make the audience feel involved without them even having to do anything. Try really hard to make them feel like they can relate to the movie. That would cause some great emotional attachment to the film as well as interaction with the film.

Last, but not least, Shawn Levy. By now, I’m sure most people have seen at least one scene from Stranger Things, if not the whole series three times over. This has been one of Netflix’s most successful shows because of the insane amount of money that it has made them. So, what was making this show so popular? I believe that is was a combination of many things from 80s nostalgia, to plot twists, to a great cast among other things. But, one thing all of those have in common: a fantastic director. It takes a great director to facilitate all of these tasks at once for over four years and counting and that is exactly what Shawn Levy has been doing. Although I could go much deeper, one great takeaway from Shawn Levy’s experience is to be involved every step of the way. This also brings back a great point from above that a director should have experience in as many positions in film as possible.

So, from my exploring of these three great directors, I have three tips for my future self:

  1. Gather experience from every position in the film studio. What harm could it do?
  2. Learn to effectively get the audience to interact with the movie. Moreover, make sure the film is somewhat relatable. That will establish a greater emotional connection between the audience and the film itself (and therefore you, the director)!
  3. Lastly, make sure your film indirectly represents you and your experiences. A film should be something that you are proud of because of all of the time and effort you put into it.

Thanks for reading and I hope this article was somewhat informative to my perspective on the importance of a director in any film. Comment down below with any of your thoughts!