The Style Plan

There are nine of us in our Advanced Directing course. Each of us gets a full class dedicated to our film. We do a table read of the script, then the Director presents a Style Plan that breaks down the look and feel of the film we see in our head. We choose the perfect cast list from actors we like. If we’ve cast a role we show who we choose. We show examples of what our characters would wear. We discuss the aesthetic we’re going for, visually as well as directorially.

I presented Sweet, Sweet Country on Thursday of last week. When I started writing, I essentially wrote a silent film. It came in roughly at 25 pages or so with no dialogue. I relied heavily on the visual to help flesh out the story. All those details will still serve a purpose when Art starts doing their magic, but they had to virtually disappear from the script once I started adding dialogue.

Those same images that served in helping to construct the story are in my Style Plan. I’ve included some images from the plan in the slide show at the top of the page.

After we go through the Style Plan, everyone now has an idea of the look of the characters and the overall feel and tone of the film. We then do another reread of the script. We discuss each beat, the knowledge of the characters and if each scene pushes the story forward. It’s a good process.

On the second read I felt there’s just the right amount  of dialogue, although the actual wording changed for a few characters. It’s definitely a Realist film, with a lot of breathing room, which I love. It also struck me that I’m on a path that gets me closer to what I admired about Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Biutiful.

While Biutiful is about a man and his personal struggles, there’s no denying the secondary story of the migrant workers. I fell in love with the film on a number of levels, but mainly on the premise that it wasn’t pontificating, rather showing me the realities of the world it created, which is very close, if not exactly the world we inhabit.

There’s a danger in telling the stories I want to tell. I could easily come off as a bore or a heavy-handed hack, running around pontificating about the world and expressing righteous indignation. I do want people to walk away from my work with questions, but I don’t want people to feel like they’ve been beaten over the head with a message.

In class we had a good discussion about a few characters and their decisions and my intentions for them. I was also asked what I want people to feel at the end of the film.  I won’t say here, but I love that the question was even presented.  The fact that the question exists, actually answers it.

Update: You can now check out the full Sweet, Sweet Country Style Plan.

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