5 Basics
Film Directors Must Master

By Elliot Grove

There are two sides to every film: The story, and the techniques used to visualise it.

1) Learn the rules of story, then break them

Traditional screenwriting has a rigid set of rules. New directors must learn these rules before they can be broken.

Consider Jean Luc Godard's impact, and Toronto Film Festival Director Piers Handling:

“Godard challenged the accepted notions of how a film was constituted. His innovations included jump cuts, direct address to camera, the long take, disjunction of sound and image and an innovative use of the actor—all of which have become completely integrated in a variety of ways into contemporary film, music videos and commercials. His famous statement ‘‘A film should have a beginning, a middle and an end—but not necessarily in that order’ revealed his modus operandi. He had an enormous influence on the emerging national cinemas of the ’60s in Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe, and no major filmmaker in America or Europe could ignore his radical challenge to established film grammar.

Quentin Tarantino named his production company A Band Apart after Godard’s Bande à part, while Aki and Mika Kaurismäki’s unit was called Villealfa after Alphaville.

Direct your first feature 2) Don't allow film training to encumber innovation

Orson Welles, with no previous film training or experience, signed a deal with RKO Pictures that gave him final cut rights as a director. His brilliant first movie, Citizen Kane, guaranteed him a place in cinematic history.

Welles and his team developed innovative techniques which still seem innovative today. They developed special lenses for Kane allowing him to explore depth of field and detail in every single frame of his film.

3) Learn the grammar of directing

So many want to direct but so few are willing to learn the grammar of visual storytelling. Simple basics like crossing the line evade many.

There are many ways to learn the grammar of film directijng, but none beats trial and error method making your own films. To make your own films, you need use some basics tools every day.

4) Assemble a team of collaborators

Great directors tend to work with the same team over and over again. Take Bergman with Sven Nykvist, Nolan with composer David Julyan and writer Jonathan Nolan, and Tarantino's collaboration with Lawrence Bender. It matters not if you live in Hollywood or London. What matters is where your team lives and works.

5) Find your story and your vision of the world

Bergman's legacy is his keen observation of human nature. Scorcese is known for his view of violence.

Truffaut, John Houston, Billy Wilder, Tarantino or even Stephen Spielberg each have a unique perspective on the world.

Rear title credits

There is no better way to become a director than to direct. Get some mates, write a short shot list or idea from a scene and shoot it on a weekend. Then do another. You will soon build a portfolio.

Never forget the other essential ingredient: watch films by other masters, past and present.

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About Elliot Grove

Elliot GroveCanadian born Elliot Grove founded Raindance Film Festival in 1993, the British Independent Film Awards in 1998, and Raindance.TV in 2007, the Raindance Postgraduate Film Degree in 2011 and Raindance Raw Talent in 2013.

He has produced over 150 short films, and 5 feature films incuding his latest feature film, Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey. He has written eight scripts, one of which is currently in pre-production. He teaches writers and producers in the UK, Europe. Japan and America.

He has written three books which have become industry standards: RAINDANCE WRITERS LAB 2nd Edition (Focal Press 2008),  RAINDANCE PRODUCERS LAB (Focal Press 2013) and 130 PROJECTS TO GET YOU INTO FILMMAKING (Barrons 2009). His first novel THE BANDIT QUEEN is scheduled for publication next year.

Open University awarded Elliot and Honourary Doctorate for services to film education in 2009.
He is regularly interviewed. Here is an interview for Canadian television

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5 Basics Film Directors Must Master