“We all steal, but if we’re smart we steal from great directors. Then, we can call it influence.”- Krysztof Kieslowski
Film techniques help shape the meaning of your film and have a massive effect on the way viewers portray the scenes in your film. These signature film techniques from the greatest directors in history provide a blueprint for you to create you own unique style.
1. Quentin Tarantino- Crash Zoom In
Over the last 30 years, Tarantino has employed very specific film techniques that defined his uqinue, signature style. One of his most famous film techniques is the “Crash Zoom In” which he uses to draw the viewers attention to a very specific character or moment in the film.
Example #1: Django Unchained
Tarantino utilizes his brilliant crash zoom in effect to shift the viewers attention to the character of Calvin Candie, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Such a dramatic zoom in entrance foreshadows the chaos and pivotal role Dicaprio’s character will bring to the story. This film technique can be put to use when you’re attempting to re-direct all attention to a specific aspect of your film.
Example #2: Kill Bill
The great Tarantino once again this deploys this film technique to highlight to ferocity in the eyes of “The Bride” played by Uma Thurman in the film Kill Bill. This example shows that this film technique can fuel emotions that are display in particular scenes. You can feel the intense and extreme determination behind Uma Thurman’s eyes. It’s been said that a picture can say a 1,000 words, Tarantino’s Crash Zoom technique can say 10,000 words.
2. Martin Scorsese- Freeze Frame
There is few people on the planet that know more about film than Martin Scorsese. Scorsese seems to have the tremendous ability of recalling details from almost every movie he’s ever seen. One of Scorsese’s most infamous film techniques include the: “Freeze Frame”
Goodfellas features 13 separate examples of Scorsese’s famous “Freeze Frame” film technique. In fact if you view them all chronologically, it pretty much sums up the whole movie. Scorsese realized that such complex stories such as Goodfellas sometimes need a pause in the action to more effectively tell the story. In the case of Goodfellas, this film technique gives room for Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta) to narrate his story & capture the audience’s full attention.
3. Francis Ford Coppola- Theme of film in 1-2 words
This advice from the legendary Francis Ford Coppola is extremely useful for up & coming filmmakers. Coppola views this film technique as the key factor that allows him to make faster filmmaking decisions while on set.
“The reason it’s important to have this is because most of the time what a director really does is make decisions. All day long: Do you want it to be long hair or short hair? Do you want a dress or pants? Do you want a beard or no beard? There are many times when you don’t know the answer. Knowing what the theme is always helps you.”
Example: Coppola Film Themes
Apocalypse Now– “Morality”
Modernisation– “Poor vs. Rich”
For a minute I lost myself– Terror/Disorientation
Longshan’s People II– People vs Military
*Notice that all of these themes have emotional factors that help drive the story.
4. Christopher Nolan- Non-linear storytelling
Nolan’s brilliant ability to warp the audience perception of reality is one of the most defined themes in his films. He focuses on the deep relationship between time & memory and attempts to break the mindset of how we as humans experience life. Most films present a comfortable universe for the audience, Nolan does the opposite.
Such as life, Nolan believes that the audience should be left to make certain judgements about the character and develop their own set of beliefs or disbeliefs. His focus is on the subjective (judgements made based on personal feelings) vs Objective (judgements not influenced by personal feelings) part of the mind. The goal is to have both viewpoints meet at the end of the film.
It’s the context of a scene that allows the audience to have slightly different meanings of events/actions. This is meant to challenge the audience to realize that all of their assumptions about the world are a matter of perception. Nolan masterfully utilizes flashbacks & flashforwards to achieve this.
Memento- Opening sequence is the last scene played backwards
The Prestige- The first scene in the film is also the last one
Inception- Flashforward to ending.
The Dark Knight Rises- Flashback to event that occurred before main storyline starts
Interstellar- Flash forward to clips of an interview, then clip of flashback/dream.
5. Steven Spielberg- Music
Steven Spielberg has many legendary film techniques including the sideways tracking shots & over the shoulder shots but one of the most distinctive signatures of a Spielberg film is the Music. Spielberg has a long & storied career working with arguably the greatest film composer of all time, John Williams.
Spielberg recognized the powerful connection between film & music. The film score makes it memorable & has a major emotional impact on the storytelling of film. Williams & Spielberg have a collaborative partnership spanning over 40 years which is unparalleled in the film industry.
John Williams has composed all of Steven Spielberg’s films except for Color Purple. His legendary Spielberg soundtracks include Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Indiana Jones, and ET. To make it more impressive, this strings of hits was in the span only 8 years.