'Piercing': How to Cultivate Tone and Style in Your Film

Gather together your influences in order to create something all your own.

It’s no secret that filmmakers copy those other filmmakers in their lives who most inspire them. Whether that’s picking up on some sort of trademark dialogue, production design, pacing, music, performances, editing, or camerawork, many times it's easy to identify and trace a piece of style one director drew influence in from another.

With two wildly different, yet eerily similar films under his belt, Nicolas Pesce is mastering the art of adapting his favorite filmmaker’s techniques in a way that serves his own form of storytelling. He describes his first film The Eyes of My Mother as his tribute to 50’s/60’s black and white horror, while he claims his newest project, the stylistically impressive thriller Piercing, is his take on the Giallo crime pictures which peaked in popularity in Italy during the 1970’s.

That’s not to say his films are a direct emulation of those pieces that he so dearly loves. As his actor Christopher Abbott puts it, filmmaking is all about “gathering influences to create something of your own.” Clearly, Pesce is a filmmaker who is not only interested in taking risks, but in creating and pushing style as well. 

"Piercing" Credit: Borderline Presents

Piercing is indeed one of those risky pictures. Abbott plays a man with, well, psychological problems. One night he kisses his wife and baby goodbye, seemingly on his way to a business conference. His real plan, however, is to check into a hotel, call an escort service, and kill an unsuspecting prostitute. That prostitute is played by Mia Wasikowska who ends up providing her captor with a little bit more trouble than he initially imagined.

I sat down with Pesce, Abbot, and their producer Jacob Wasserman back at Sundance to discuss, cultivating tone and style in your picture, maintaining your vision through intensely detailed pre-production and how to create screenplays that will attract both actors and producers to your project.

Listen to the episode by streaming or downloading from the embedded player above, or find it on iTunes here.

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No Film School's podcast and editorial coverage of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival is sponsored by RODE Microphones and Blackmagic Design.     

Your Comment


Oh geez... this picture gave me goosebumps. Everything connected with eye pain is just terrifying!

February 20, 2018 at 2:10AM


Everything connected with eye pain is just terrifying!


May 31, 2021 at 8:33AM