By Priscilla Jimenez
Filmmaker / Los Angeles, CA
WHAT IS STYLE?
Have you ever walked down the street and admired a person’s jacket, their jeans or even something as simple as the way they walk with confidence? Style is all around us, it’s embedded in our daily lives and hides in our subconscious. For example we don’t know why some things are cool or why they make us feel a certain way, it’s just something we feel. Style in terms of filmmaking can mean the way you shoot something, the length of the shot, the tone and mood of everything you see. The same scene can be infinitely different or feel different based on the filmmaker’s style. Your sensibilities are unique to you and cannot be replicated and this is why style is so important.
WHY IS STYLE IMPORTANT?
With the evolution of the internet came many more creatives/marketplaces which made the advertising/film market saturated with creators. For one this is a wonderful thing, we want to champion more and more individuals to do the things they love. However with that came a plethora of options for clients and that’s where style really comes into play. If you have a unique way of shooting, coloring or even playing with sound design then chances are you’ll start pulling in clients based on your style.
Your style also helps you place your own unique stamp in the industry. This is probably the most critical and important note on style. The uniqueness of how you like to shoot or tell stories cannot be replicated. This is your fingerprint and while there might be certain elements that cross over to other creative’s style, yours is undeniably – yours.
Recognizing what your style is might be difficult at first. I remember back to my early days of filmmaking or dabbling into making films. I often wanted to copy any filmmakers who I found to be influential. Eventually as with many things you start to question your sensibility choices and whether or not they are unique to you. For example if you are making creative choices which don’t resonate with your life experiences they will eventually feel inauthentic and not stick. You’ll start to recognize what sticks the more you create and you’ll keep what is unique to you and ditch what was a trend or fade.
Once you start to get a handle on what’s working for you you’ll eventually start getting callbacks for your style. Clients will identify certain looks and sensibilities you deliver and begin to associate certain visual aesthetics or emotions with your work. Therefore, when they have a project that is suitable you slowly become the go-to creative for the project. Generally this is a great thing as you feel confident in delivering great creative because it’s authentic to you. It goes without saying that there can be some potential drawbacks. Sometimes clients may not come to you if a project doesn’t fit your style. While initially this may seem like a bad thing you’ll slowly realize that the best work is the work you feel comfortable working in and while you should always and I mean ALWAYS stretch yourself and do things outside of your comfort zone — doing work that is completely not who you are or your style can potentially be unfulfilling.
HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR STYLE
As with many other things in life “development” comes from well, developing. The only way to develop is to go through the motions of trial, failure, triumph and time. As I mentioned earlier I tried to copy certain aesthetics or styles of other creators only to realize they weren’t true to me, my voice or my life experiences.
Watching films, traveling, and reading are all great influences in helping you craft your style. Intrinsically you’ll be drawn to influences that are true to you so consuming media and life are probably the best ways to help you develop. These are almost always more sticky than browsing the trendy new creative styles out there.
In my experience the best way style is developed is by trial and error. Testing and trying things out is the best way to figure out what you like. This can be technical such as the characteristics of a lens, the emotion of a certain lighting style or how a certain focal length can evoke an emotion. While testing out lenses and gear is a great way to evolve your style, it’s expensive to go out and purchase gear to experiment with. There is no other way around it, filmmaking is expensive. The gear we use to tell stories can cost an arm and a leg but one of the great things about filmmaking is that we don’t NEED to own what we use on set to tell stories. Renting a very expensive lens kit is now more accessible than ever with companies like BorrowedLenses.com. Procuring expensive cameras and lenses was very difficult in the past but now we can rent gear to help us explore our style. I myself prefer using lenses over the 50mm focal length and creatively using macro lenses as portrait lenses because you can really get into the talent’s eye and their emotion. Renting kits to help you explore is a fantastic way to learn what you like and what you don’t.
With testing and experimenting you’ll slowly figure out what sticks for your own unique style. There is no magic formula for this, your taste and sensibilities will evolve overtime. You’ll start collecting shot styles, color looks and camera movements overtime while simultaneously ditching what doesn’t work. This is where trusting your gut comes into play. You’ll feel attracted to how you frame scenes and you’ll also start to collect feedback from clients on what type of work you’re producing that they like.
Overall, developing your style is a journey not a destination. It will continue to evolve and change overtime. Remember to draw from your experiences, your travels, books, films but more importantly from experimenting with gear. Be patient as you go through this process but do recognize what sticks and doesn’t. Enjoy the experience and keep on stylin’
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