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Being An Auteur: Notes On Defining Your Directorial Style

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We think that auteurs, those geniuses behind the camera come from a strong film school pedigree. However, this is not the case anymore. For people who are looking to define their career as an auteur, here are some things to focus on. 

The Notion of Auteur Theory

There’s a lot of talk about “auteur theory,” which describes the impact a director can have on a movie, the most recent example being Zack Snyder’s Justice League cut. The “Snyder Cut” is not just his definitive cut, but is a changing force in modern moviemaking. The fact is that now, directors could use platforms like HBO Max to be as indulgent as they want, but still have an audience. The Snyder cut is his definitive vision, and we may see a few more come out as a result. This idea of auteur theory is nothing new, it goes back to Truffaut, Howard Hawks, and, of course, Hitchcock. 

Think About Your Auteur “Signature”

The modern auteurs like Tarantino, or even J.J. Abrams, exhibit certain characteristics that serve as their signature. If you are looking to develop and define your directorial career, you have got to think about your signature. This could be a certain lens flare or a stab of cinematic music because after all, we cannot think of Spielberg without generally thinking of John Williams. 

The Importance of Telling Good Stories

As Spielberg is someone who is always on the hunt for stories, this can be a stepping stone to being a certain auteur. There are auteurs that took over productions and became bigger than the movies, eventually undermining the process, such as Peter Bogdanovic. But when you go back to the directors like John Ford or Howard Hawks, all they were trying to do was tell a good story. Many people are now looking at the director as a person who is is bigger than the production, and is a name in themselves. But the movie-making process is about telling good stories, nothing else. When you look at someone like Spielberg or Alfred Hitchcock, you can tell through their interviews that they are not trying to shape the culture, but are just trying to tell a good story.

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What Is the Modern Auteur?

What does it take for someone who is shooting a project in the modern-day? These days we talk about filmmaking as a “one-woman band.” The fact is that you can make an amazing-looking movie on your iPhone. Movies like Tangerine have typified this in recent years. Now, the idea of the auteur is of someone who can use a wide variety of technology to tell a high-quality visual story. This is something that was unheard of 30 or 40 years ago. You can choose certain lens flares or signatures in sound, but if you are looking to develop your own style, all you need is a smartphone and a great idea. 

Of course, you will need that little bit of movie magic as well, and directors will always need everyone else around them to make a great movie, which is the spirit of movie-making! It’s not just the director, but it’s the artists in front and behind the camera. For every Denis Villeneuve, there is Roger Deakins. For every Spielberg, there is Janusz Kamiński. The auteur is just one piece of the puzzle. 

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