Directing the First Film
The genre of the film that I have decided to direct is drama; it appears that the genre is attracting considerable interest both from the critics and academics, as well as from mainstream viewers. As one of the oldest genres that had existed before the cinematography in the form of theatrical performances, a film directed in this genre can be surprisingly undemanding in terms of special effects, costumes, makeup, and even music. Moreover, viewers are often more likely to see a drama with an unknown director than a science fiction movie or a comedy because these genres often require investment in the cast and special effects/CGI. Drama, in return, can be filmed with a moderate budget and still have higher chances to receive positive reviews. As an example, one can recall such movies as The Breakfast Club, Good Will Hunting, movies directed by Ingmar Bergman or Jim Jarmusch, etc. However, one of the biggest advantages of the critically acclaimed dramas that were also positively evaluated by the audience is their scripts, which can contain little action but quite a lot of well-written dialogues. Therefore, the first category to pick and invest in is the “story/writers” category.
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As Parkyn points out, the purpose of drama and dramaturgy is to create a dramatic illusion and tension, while cinematography, in general, is focused on providing and maintaining a flow of images (148). It does not mean that imagery and cinematography are not important in drama; however, they are not essential as well. Moreover, sometimes the lack of stunning imagery and beautiful cinematography enhances the film’s atmosphere – as it was in the movies Open Water, Cloverfield, and District 9, where the effect of the hand-held camera increased the dramatic effect of the movie.
The future script of the film is of absolute importance because the spectator/character relationships can be a bridge to viewers’ identification with the main character (Dix 115). However, it is not empathy that one should expect from viewers when filming a drama, but rather sympathy, the ability of viewers to develop “non-fleeting care, concern,… a non-passing pro-attitude toward another person” (Dix 115). Nevertheless, it is unreasonable to try writing a character that would be appealing to everyone; instead, the writers should focus on diverse, believable characters that will be the main advantage of the movie. Their actions and thoughts should not be explicitly rational or irrational; instead, they should be perceived as genuine. To create such characters on paper demands excellent experience and understanding of many factors that shape a human being and the character’s relations to the audience. If it is not the director’s aim to oversimplify the characters for a particular purpose, it is advisable to hire professional writers and storytellers who will be able to provide well-thought and well-written characters.
It should also be noted that a film relies not only on characters. As it is impossible to attract viewers using the director’s name as an advertisement, the film should be able to attract viewers’ attention and maintain their focus up until the end of the story. As Dix points out, the mainstream films frequently utilize the scheme proposed by Tzvetan Todorov, where the equilibrium is provoked by a crisis, which eventually leads viewers to “the phase of equilibrium-restored” (125). However, pessimistic endings are common for some of the genres, including drama. Furthermore, movies that had open endings or had not provided a clear explanation of the ending itself also gained attention and fame, such as, for example, Inception or Mulholland Dr. Thus, the genre of drama allows the director experiment with endings but only if these experiments are the part of a well-written script.
The next step is to hire a star and a co-star that will perform in the film. Since the director’s name is unknown to the audience, it is reasonable to assume that the cast (and possibly the writers) will be the main attractions for the wider audience. A case in point is the movie Lobster, a black comedy with elements of drama, where the main characters were portrayed by Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz. The movie gained much more attention from the critics and the audience compared to previous films by Yorgos Lanthimos, most likely due to the cast (Olivia Colman and Ben Whishaw also starred in the movie). The star/spectator dynamic, as discussed by Dix, should not be underestimated in our world of advertisement through social media (215). The actors have the power to promote the movie via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and other social media they are using. Although Dix points out that stars rarely use social media platforms as a means to express their own thoughts and beliefs, these official pages normally use as a tool of advertisement and promotion (215). Therefore, hiring a star and a co-star to perform in the planned drama seems reasonable not only because they will be qualified enough to portray the characters’ emotions professionally but also because of their potential to attract attention to a directorial debut (as it was with the movie (500) Days of Summer).
Dix, Andrew. Beginning Film Studies. OUP, 2016.
Parkyn, Megan. (2015). “Struggle and Emerge: An Analysis of the Biopic, Documentary, and Drama Film Genres.” Mount Royal Undergraduate Humanities Review (MRUHR), vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 144-150.