If there's one thing director Marc Forster doesn't do it's repeat himself. His filmography is rich and diverse, including Monster's Ball, The Kite Runner, and most recently World War Z. He shared a handful of rather cryptic filmmaking tips with MovieMaker Magazine, which aim to challenge your artistic mind and directorial sensibilities -- things that he no doubt found significant while directing Oscar-worthy performances.
It's important to learn the technical and practical side of directing for sure, but there is a visceral component that must be explored as well. The advice Forster shares with MovieMaker is complex and at times seems intangible, requiring us to look a little bit deeper into his words -- which is essentially his call to action for filmmakers, to look a little bit deeper. Very clever, Forster.
Look for what isn't visible
We deal with a visual medium. Obviously there are other incredibly important components, but film has an intrinsic visual and kinetic nature, unlike literature, music, and plastic arts. We want to see movement, so we put it up on the screen.
However, maybe think about what you're putting up on the screen and ask yourself, "Could someone experience this shot, scene, dialog in the same way if I simply wrote it or read it aloud?" If they could, I'd say that the essence of cinema isn't being harnessed, and therefore, you, the filmmaker, may need to look a little deeper. Forster says:
Moviemaking is about the discovery within the written word, that which cannot be found when spoken. The main focus should always be to keep looking for what is not visible, to keep striving for the image beyond the words.
Be open to receive
The lens is the eye and filmmaking is seeing. A good director knows how to see, perceive, discern, empathize, and connect. It's an emotional medium, and some people are simply more perceptive and discerning than others, but that doesn't mean you can't do things to bolster your skills. A lot of times, as Forster explains, that means receiving rather than giving -- receiving input, receiving a look, receiving the sensation of the wind on the back of your neck without immediately giving a response or thought or opinion.
Look into your actor’s eyes and see if they remind you of things you have forgotten. Listen to everyone and at the same time, no one -- they might know something you don’t. Be open to receive while still letting your vision guide you, not your ego.
Energy over originality
We all want to be original, because we have a basic need for individuality -- that's why we have egos and invented the word "I". (Ayn Rand anyone?) As filmmakers, making a film that is considered original is as good as, or better than winning a prestigious award, so some of us spend so much time trying to be different and forget to just be ourselves -- to find our own vision.
So, if you're feeling like your films are just knock-offs of other movies, don't despair. Art, including filmmaking, isn't necessarily about originality, it's about energy -- the power to evoke emotion. How many of your favorite films are truly original? A couple maybe? How many of them are powerful, authentic, and truthful? Most if not all of them.
Always try to remember that storytelling is the most ancient form of communication. Each story had been told; there are no original stories. What there is, and what will always remain, is the energy created in the process of storytelling. The more authentic and truthful that process is, the more inspired others become.
For the rest of Marc Forster's filmmaking tips, check out his "golden rules" on MovieMaker.
What do you think of Marc Forster's advice? Is there anything that stuck out to you specifically?