The first question that people ask when I tell them that I am a filmmaker is: “What kind of films do you make?” You might think that this is a simple question because the answers (potentially) are short. “I make political documentaries.” Or “I do thrillers.” But this is a big, meaty, existential question. What these people are asking is probably the hardest and most fundamental question a filmmaker must answer (after "How do I pay my rent?"). When someone asks: “What kind of films do you make?”, they are really asking, “What kind of stories do you want to tell me?” They are the Caterpillar and you are Alice and they want to know, “Who are you?”
|With Luna, then 5 months, |
recording my Voice Over for
THE LAKE EFFECT
Finding your voice as a filmmaker doesn’t necessarily mean boxing yourself into a genre. But it is important to understand that with each film that you make, you are building a body of work and you are building a career. Defining your voice not only helps executives and collaborators understand your vision, it helps audiences know who you are so that they can more easily come along for the next ride. Most importantly, by exploring your own voice instead of trying to impersonate other directors, you can create truly original work.
Now, by default, in the beginning of my career, I started writing female leads and by default I started writing about romance (I was 22 when I began this journey and boy problems were tantamount). After several romantic comedies, I tried my hand at an indie script in the hopes of directing it. Indie in my mind, meant edgier, darker… drama. My indie script turned out to be a dramedy. I couldn’t help it… I try to write drama and the “edy” sneaks in. In fact, when something is funny, it’s the only time I really know it’s working.
So it would seem a simple answer at this point. What kind of films do you make? Indie dramedy! But after surveying my slate (see Blog #8) which now includes several more broad comedies and romantic comedies, as well as a few more TV comedies, I have to admit that the comedy is a common thread, as is thoroughly flawed lead characters, redemption, and a lot of heart.
So, as I embark on my next filmic endeavor, I find myself still pondering (re-pondering?) what my answer is to the “Who are you?” question. For a while the answer was "Romantic Comedy" then it was "Strong Female Driven Comedy." Since THE LAKE EFFECT it’s been “Indie Dramedy.”
Perhaps there is some happy marriage between these things. Trumpets please as I announce that I make "Character Driven Comedies!"
Alas, it's not as exciting on paper as it sounded in my head.
The truth is, I am still finding my voice as a filmmaker. I think I will be for the whole of my career – seeking out nuances, trying to be honest with myself and not just emulate the filmmakers I respect.
One thing I do believe is that if you’re not in a constant process of discovery, you will stagnate. So be honest, make mistakes, and trust yourself... And to find more articulate information on how to find your voice from people who have done it themselves, see:
Director Jason Reitman talk about Finding the magic:
Colin Firth find his voice in: The King’s Speech, (which is rightfully up for a whopping 7 Golden Globe nominations) http://www.kingsspeech.com/