September 5, 2019

4 Things Alfonso Cuarón Can Teach You about Directing

Alfonso Cuarón guided us into the future in "Children of Men", and now, he wants to guide us into our own future...a future in making films.

Alfonso Cuarón is one of our most talented filmmaking voices. It's hard to believe that back in 2006, he was a filmmaker trying to make his way in Hollywood after gaining international success with his erotic drama Y Tu Mamá También. Once the director moved on to bigger projects, including Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but it wasn't until Children of Men, his epic sci-fi masterpiece, that the world realized we had a serious cinematic maestro on our hands.

In this video, the team at The Director's Cut put together some quotes from interviews Cuarón has given about how he directed Children of Men, and we chose four of our favorites...ones that we thought would help you the most as a filmmaker. So, let's talk about the tips after the jump! 

4 Things Alfonso Cuarón Can Teach You about Directing

Children of Men was an instant classic. A movie that hit at the right time and with the right kind of science fiction for the era. The world felt like ours, but a little different. It predicted the wealth inequality and immigrant angst people feel all over the world now and had a controversial ending that gets left to audience interpretation. 

Let's talk about what Cuarón learned making this film. 

1. Filmmaking is an adventure where the audience finds their own conclusions 

At the end of Children of Men, the two lead characters leave on a boat, holding the first baby born in 20 years. Now, you could believe that the next wave drowned them both and it was all for naught. but I like to believe they got away. 

That when they united with more peaceful people, the existence of a child helped the human race move on. 

That's a conclusion that I feel led to by the filmmaker. 

As a director, you give the audience a map, you try to get them where you want them to go without being too overt. Sure, people will misinterpret, but you can only do your best to get them there. That means using confidence and having a mood that you want. Direct toward that mood. 

2. Prep is your friend 

It's crazy to think about going into a set or starting a shoot without preparing, but it still happens. When you're getting ready to begin a project, spend the right amount of time securing location, going over the schedule, and locking down the cinematography. 

A lot of the locations in Children of Men were only available for short periods of time, and the actors all had other things going on too. So, Cuarón had to be incredibly precise with what he could and could not do. That didn't require luck, it requited planning for every sort of instance and a crew ready to switch based on needs in a moments notice. 

3. Embrace accidents 

One of the most complicated shots was the long take done between buildings. They had the location for almost two weeks, but none of the takes were turning out. They were on the last day when they finally got through the scene. Cuarón actually yelled cut at one point but was drowned out by an explosion. 

the reason he did was that fake blood had splattered onto the camera lens. 

This was an accident he was unsure he loved, but Emmanuel Lubezki and Clive Owen convinced him otherwise. For them, it felt like a real artistic achievement. Almost even more voyeuristic and emotional for the audience. 

So, this "problem" became a happy accident that wound up being one of the most stylistic and talked-about shots in the entire film. 

You can prep as much as you want, but be willing to embrace what goes wrong as much as what goes right. 

4. Cast generous people 

One of the most under-appreciated things about directing is casting. Sure, stars matter, but what about good people? 

By all accounts, Cuarón says Clive Owen was a very generous performer. His work with the rest of the cast in and outside of his own scenes really helped elevate everyone on the production. It made him able to take and give within each scene. His familiarity also helped embellish chemistry. 

It felt like he knew and wanted to get to know everyone, even reluctantly. That worked so well within the character and was singled out right away by Cuarón. 

So, find actors and actresses who are magnanimous and want to work with others. 

It pays off on and off-screen. 

What's next? 4 things you can learn from Scorsese's direction on Taxi Driver

Martin Scorsese knew he had something special when he read Paul Schrader's "Taxi Driver" script. So, how did he direct it so masterfully? And what can he teach you? 

Click to read!      

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I would like to say these tips are really helpful for readers.

September 11, 2019 at 7:51PM

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Sara George
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