Keeping it Reel

Young Directors: Finding Your Voice

While a writer controls what is said and by who, it isn’t the writer’s voice that shines through in a movie. It is the director’s. The director is the teller of the story and as such it is the director alone that is identifiable through a film. Wes Anderson, Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino, the Coen Brothers, you know one of there films when you see them, because they have found and mastered their own individual voices and methods of storytelling. But how did they do it? As a novice director how do you discover your voice? Below are a few ways you can learn to let your voice shine through in your projects.

Watch movies

Every writer is told over and over again that one of the greatest ways to improve their skills is to read. It is no different for a director. If you want to discover your own personal voice you need to witness the works of others. Watch films for enjoyment, watch them analytically, watch them with a specific purpose in mind. Think to yourself: ‘what would I do differently if I was directing.’ In observing, admiring, and critiquing different movies, you can learn a lot about your own style.

Ignore the words

Words on a page control a story, but they do not control how a story is told. Just as two actors can have two incredibly different interpretations of a character, two directors should have different visions for a scene. The angle of certain shots, the delivery and timing of lines and phrases, the lighting—all of things contribute to the way a director tells a story. To find your voice, you must look at the moments between each line, you must tune out the dialogue at times to fully understand the visual storytelling that needs to occur.

Don’t be afraid of your influences

As a young director one of the hardest things to do is find your own voice and not copy another’s, but when reaching for individualism it can be easy to lose yourself. You can end up trying so hard for individuality that you forget to stay true to your own voice and your own story. As a director, you can’t be afraid of the people or things that have influenced you. You have to embrace these things and realize that it is your influence that have made you the kind of director you are.

Fight for your vision

There are always going to be moments when you are challenged in your vision. You will be told to sacrifice some part of your story to do something more popular or to give the audience what they want. In these moments you must have integrity and hold true to who you are. Alfred Hitchcock didn’t become well known because he followed what was “in” at the time. Your story is worth telling, so tell it. Any sacrifice will come off as inauthentic and probably end up making your film worse o

*Disclaimer: Don’t confuse being stubborn with having integrity.

Show Your Personality

Your directing style should reflect who you are as an individual. As cheesy as it sounds, art is expression. Showcase your personal experiences. Don’t be afraid to lay it all out and share who you are with the world. If you are afraid of showing the world your true voice, you’ll never find it.

The road to becoming a renowned director is a long one, but the sooner you find your voice, the sooner you will be on your way. Embrace your style and explore it.


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This blog is a collaborative effort by CCH staff and administration who want to share their knowledge with the film school community and prospective students.

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