Thursday, November 04, 2004


Mrs. Dorothy

So many filmmakers today are in search of unique, individual styles to delineate their cinematic expressions. “This is wrong” – some people say, but I wonder about it, many a time. So many filmmakers out there have so much to say, but are in search of a distinctive ‘style’ with which to tell these stories.

Mr. Comingore

What is cinematic style? Let’s see. Maybe enumerating the aspects of filmmaking will enable you to deduce a significant style. Okay, there is cinematography, Editing, Shot aesthetics, Setting/Design, Actors/Acting, Sound design/Music. Maybe filmmakers need to customize each of these in order to suit specific stylistic needs.

Mrs. Dorothy

I used to think that an Auteur would first have to deduce a style and then figure out a story to fit the style. Then, I began to doubt this proposition. What I mean is, it is but obvious that first the story needs to be nailed down. Because to a large extent, content does dictate the style with which it can best be brought to screen. So, in essence story/content comes first. This leads me to wonder if this means that story is more important than style. This, because I have seen really shallow stories shot beautifully with tremendous performances and eloquence with which it translates to screen. But somehow, I am coming to think that the over all package is what is important.

Mr. Comingore

Yes. First, the story should be selected. Then, a deconstruction of the story should be undertaken to identify the method by which the story can best be brought to screen. This is where, previous patterns/filmic styles need to be examined and explored.

Mrs. Dorothy

Of course this is not a compulsory step. There is no need to follow past auteurs’ footsteps. However, a repertoire of past films and cinematic styles will come in handy to detect the very many avenues which allow for individuality OR a ‘break-away’ from conventional norms of treatment. For instance, an action film will be handled differently in the hands of two different directors. The selection of shots, the acting, decisions on pacing etc will be unique to these two directors, making the same film a reflection of their unique identities.
Mr. Comingore

This is where the greatest Auteurs differ from other mediocre filmmakers. Not so much in the matters of content, but in manner in which the content is treated. Asking valuable questions like – Where do I see this happening? Who do I see as my main character? How do I see my shots telling a visual story?


Mrs. Dorothy

But don’t many directors actually see all of this in their heads even prior to writing their stories?

Mr. Comingore

Still, these are questions which are necessary to be asked. The reason they are important is not only to eliminate problems later on, also to keenly examine one’s own vision and the relevance & possibility of translating what we see in our heads on screen.


Mrs. Dorothy

Could these be some of the questions one might put forth to oneself -
Has it been done before? If so, how is the content benefiting in your expert hands? If not, how are you going to carve a convincing balance between this content and your style?


Mr. Comingore

Yes. Exactly - It is at this juncture that it is essential to remember that “style” should always submit to the “content” of the story. This is not to say that there are stipulated styles with which certain types of content should be handled.


Mrs. Dorothy
Oh, I understand what you mean. What you’re saying is – There are no strict rules of making action, romance etc. It’s all up to the auteur.


Mr. Comingore
Yes. It is the toughest thing to treat a familiar content with refreshing uniqueness. Those are the films which are the most successful. Which benefit from deft treatment and distinctive visuals.


Mrs. Dorothy

But I still have a nagging question. Is it wrong for me as a filmmaker to come into the foray with a default set of stylistic elements with which I treat my stories?

Mr. Comingore

No. It is most welcome actually. But there has to be an impeccable balance between content and style. If the content is weak and you are more eager to show off your distinctive style, then the film will ultimately suffer. So, although we cannot but have an inbuilt set of unique stylistic qualities, we must use them with restraint and wisdom and only in measures that serve the story.

Mrs. Dorothy

What do you have to say about filmmakers like Eisenstein, Truffaut and Goddard who began to make films in the first place as a counter reaction to popular American cinematic norms?

Mr. Comingore

Good question. Yes. These people are known for revolutionary styles which created new movements in cinema history. However, never once did their filmic styles serve vain plot lines. They devised plots which worked in consonance with their unique styles. It was a whole package. Do you understand?

Mrs. Dorothy

Yes. For the most part I think. My problem is my need to draw a distinct line between content and style and that simply cannot be done, I think.
They work hand in hand and co-exist harmoniously.

Mr. Comingore

I think you summed it up beautifully. They are but two sides of the same coin. There are innumerable styles to bring to life a common story which has been dealt with innumerable times. So, I think stories benefit in the hands of directors who are ruthless and pragmatic in their use of their unique styles to visually tell a story. Ultimately, we cannot detach ourselves from our styles. They are born with us and WILL direct the way we read, visualize and direct our films.



Mrs. Dorothy

And that’s a great thing, I think. It makes me relieved in a way. What I get out of all this is that thinking about style is not as important as challenging ourselves to visualize.

Mr. Comingore

What do you mean? Visualize the story?

Mrs. Dorothy

Yes. I think that a story deserves tremendous visualization which is untainted by norms of style or technique. Images are important to conceptualize the story in our heads. And then these very images metamorphose into a flowing thread which will then benefit from our unique styles by which we visually tell the story.

Mr. Comingore

Point taken.




18 Comments:

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November 7, 2004 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger Anand said...

Yeah! Point taken!
Of course even I have this dilemma about the form-content; style-substance dualism. But it all becomes extremely clear at one point, but soon after, I start having doubts.
Right now I am working on a script that somebody else is going to direct. So the whole meaning of the 'auteur's style' is shaken. Is the screenwriter supposed to just give the content to be stylized by the director, or is it not that way? The screenplay contains content, but is not in the meduim that it is to be experienced. So textual stylisation has no meaning. But, the screenplay is also an audio-visual blueprint. Which means that you can introduce cinematic stylisation in it as well. The screenwriters 'cinematic knowledge' and skill matters here. That would differentiate between screenwriters and novelists.

November 9, 2004 at 8:46 AM  
Blogger Mitochondria said...

Yes. Anti. I am back. Thankyou. Warm welcome to you too.

November 9, 2004 at 6:55 PM  
Blogger Mitochondria said...

Of course even I have this dilemma about the form-content; style-substance dualism. But it all becomes extremely clear at one point, but soon after, I start having doubts.
Right now I am working on a script that somebody else is going to direct. So the whole meaning of the 'auteur's style' is shaken. Is the screenwriter supposed to just give the content to be stylized by the director, or is it not that way? The screenplay contains content, but is not in the meduim that it is to be experienced. So textual stylisation has no meaning. But, the screenplay is also an audio-visual blueprint. Which means that you can introduce cinematic stylisation in it as well. The screenwriters 'cinematic knowledge' and skill matters here. That would differentiate between screenwriters and novelists





I dont know Anand, if textual stylization "has no meaning". I also know that I am wrong in displacing your statement out of its context from your post. You also justify your statement later on, still I am forced to make one point. As a filmmaker, I simply cannot visualize unless it's on paper. It maybe a personal idiosyncracy, but I simply cannot think of making a film purely because of vibrant images which visit my consciousness. I feel the pressing need to etch my characters on print, before i mould them cinematically. Of course, this doesnt mean that I cannot visualize other people's stories or adapt a literary narrative, for instance. Filmmakers may not always use this strategy, but actually 'writing' the story is for me the edifice upon which my imagination harvests itself.

November 17, 2004 at 12:13 PM  
Blogger Anand said...

I have emailed you a draft of my screenplay. I hope to have struck the balance. :) And I still know someone else is going to direct it!

November 23, 2004 at 2:46 AM  
Blogger anantha said...

Mito.. wassup.. long time no posts.. How's Athens, btw?

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