Steven Soderbergh is one of the most well-respected directors of our time, and for good reason. Accomplishments like winning a Best Director Academy Award for his work in Traffic, success in both Hollywood and independent film, as well as being the youngest recipient of a Palme d'Or for his first feature film sex, lies, and videotape not only prove that he is a talented artist, but that he was worked incredibly hard throughout his 28-year-long career.
And those 28 years of filmmaking certainly allowed him to experiment with the art form and put his ideas into practice, resulting in a cinematic style that can be recognized by not only fans of his work, but passersby that stop to look and can't look away. In video essay below, ScreenPrism guides us through a long list of trademarks that make up this unique style of both visual and narrative storytelling.
Here are the trademarks mentioned in the video:
- Audio starts before visuals
- Focus on character
- Sustained close-ups
- Voyeuristic perspective
- Long, smooth follow shots
- Obstructed and over-the-shoulder shots
- Skips conventional and establishing shots
- Jump cuts for pace
- Handheld, documentary feel
- Marginalized and taboo worlds
- Personal take on the political and social
- Characters on a mission
- Experimental indies
- Wears multiple hats
- Combines genres
- Humor through counterpoint
- Blue and yellow washes
- Themes of vengeance and justice
- Mixed, unresolved endings
Whether you're a fan of Soderbergh's or not, it'd be difficult to deny how influential his work has been. Some say the release and unexpected success of his debut film sex, lies, and videotape marked the beginning of the independent film movement, and even more praise him for his devotion to making indie films despite his knack for directing Hollywood tentpoles, like Ocean's Eleven.
But regardless of whether he makes a giant blockbuster starring George Clooney and Channing Tatum or some obscure indie flick starring George Clooney and Channing Tatum, Soderbergh's visual style and narrative sensibilities have a way of rising to the top, which is why it's pretty easy to spot a Soderbergh movie—if you know what to look for.