What does it mean to have a “vision”?

Imran St Brice
Imran St Brice

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It is a question that has popped up into my mind every time I watch a movie, an interview with a director, or almost anything film related…what does it mean to have a vision?

Any ‘student’ of cinema would recognise that the most beloved directors are known for having a consistent vision throughout their movies that transcends subject matter, central themes and story structure… there’s always this thing that makes a Tarantino movie a Tarantino movie (and it’s not necessarily the satirical violence that he’s known for).

On the other hand, Spielberg who admitted once that he doesn’t think he has a defined style, is known for making a certain type of movie. Not to say that they’re all the same, but you can tell that A.I. (2001), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and Duel (1971) are all from the same director… might I say, they all have a similar vision. An interesting connection I’ve found in nearly all Spielberg films that I’ve seen; they’re all about communication in one way or another. So, does having a vision mean keeping a consistent theme (like communication) throughout your movies?

After examining the work of another director I’m inspired by, I’d say no. Christopher Nolan’s movies do seem like Christopher Nolan movies, they’re smart, to put it simply. But in my opinion there isn’t any one theme that carries throughout all of his movies yet, they’re all connected. Along similar lines, one of the terms that I’ve found –in my very casual research of directors and filmmakers– the “auteur”. Translated from French to mean “author” in English, but the meaning runs deeper than just a one word definition. Auteurs are described as directors who have a firm grip on every aspect of what their film entails; sound design, lighting, cinematography, mood, tone and so on… like solo authors of a novel. Paul Thomas Anderson is one of those, and in his films like Phantom Thread (2017) and even Punch-Drunk Love (2002) the overall experience points to a director who knows exactly what he is doing.

One of the things which tells of a director’s vision, in an obvious was, is their use of certain types of shots throughout their filmography. In the video below from StudioBinder you’ll see common shots used in Tarantino movies that some might say “make up his vision”

https://youtu.be/V95lR67Whlg

Of course, we can’t forget the other half of how we experience movies; the sound. Although it isn’t visual I firmly believe that a director’s choices in sound design do make up a large part of what their movies are about. In another video below from Nerdwriter1 there’s a brief analysis on Sound Design in Steven Spielberg’s Munich (2005).

https://youtu.be/kavxsXhzD48

Considering the above, would you be able to define “vision”? Does such a thing exist? If so, how useful is it? And, is it something you would benefit from implementing into your process?

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