How to convert great writing into a great vision.
This week I want to talk about the term “vision.” This is often what we refer to when we talk about the job of the director. The director may or may not have written the story or the script but in turning that script to life requires imagination, foresight and planning.
Think of it like when you read a book. As you read, a picture forms in your mind of what the characters and their world looks like. When a film is made, the director’s “picture” of that world must be built and developed into a motion picture.
So how does a director develop this vision? How does he or she decide on the many ideas that go through one’s head after reading a script?
Let’s explore this question by taking a deep look at one of the most visionary films of 2017, Blade Runner 2049.
Blade Runner 2049 is the follow up film to the original 1982 Blade Runner directed by Ridley Scott. Both films are based on the short story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” where writer Philip K. Dick explores the idea of artificial intelligence becoming self aware or “alive.”
While the original 1982 film was already a classic this new slick installment had a lot to live up to. This time we look at the vision of Director Denis Villeneuve.
The landscape of this futurist quasi dystopian world is that of mass population in the multi provincial Los Angeles. In this world exist two creatures at the top of the world’s food chain; humans and replicants.
This is a dense world where every bit of space is put to use and people cram through each other in this urban megatropolis.
Viewing the establishing shots makes the viewer feel small and insignificant. The air is thick with pollution, fog, and rain.
As we follow the main character, K or “Joe”, a replicant cop tasked with the job of hunting down the first inter-replicant human child, we learn more and more about this world through his experiences.
He drives out to a remote location to confront another replicant in hiding.
We follow him back to his tiny apartment in the megascape as he shares his most intimate time with another companion AI meant to simulate having a real wife.
We see his workplace where he has to live up to the expectations of all replicants to be “baseline.”
We finally follow him on his on his own journey out into the abandoned “ground zero” of a radioactive zone that turns out to be harmless.
It is in these different places and locations where we are introduced into this world, known to the main character, but brand new to us as we see it for the first time.
Each time we enter into one of these places, the camera moves slowly so we get a good long look at what it is. We are meant to study this place and remember what it looked like so that it would leave an impression on our mind.
Those images are also saying something about the story and where it’s leading. It’s foreshadowing the eventual outcome or giving subtle warnings for potential danger.
Blade Runner 2049 mesmerizes its viewer and put them in a trance like state with these images. Nothing is held back as the film bombards the audience with these visual as the whole experience of viewing a film comes alive with sights and sound.
How to create a world from your own vision:
First establish a context.
What is the central idea (Controlling idea) of your story? When you find out, make sure it is reinforced at certain points throughout your film.
Create a historical president.
Blade Runner 2049 is set in the future. The social, economic and political landscape is established on a global scale but experienced through its main characters. They all play a part in this world and follow the rules. They also suffer the consequences if they don’t follow those rules.
What is the history of your story world? War? Peace? Desolation? Make it interesting and a big part of your story.
Be original or at least rare.
This was a big challenge for Blade Runner 2049 because the original Blade Runner had already put an image of this future in people’s minds. Villeneuve took the challenge and create the same world but more bleek, more cold, and more violent yet just as hopeful. In this world replicants obey their creators until they find a purpose they can realize on their own, then it’s worth dying for.
It’s ok to borrow from others ideas but never copy. Use the best of what you can put together to create something new and fresh.
Make emotional statements with your camera.
Blade Runner 2049 has so many to choose from but the ones that stand out to me:
- K questioning his order to kill the replicant child by saying,”But what if it has a soul.” Not only does this imply the soul of the child but the lack of his own.
- Anna crafting the memory of a birthday party.
- Joi’s attempt to embrace and kiss K on the rooftop of his apartment building, then getting frozen by a call from his HQ. A tender yet fleeting moment and a reminder that his life is not real.
Emotions are the most challenging to elicit from your audience. The most direct path to make sure you backup the most innocent of your sentiments with visuals that serve as metaphors for those ideas.
I hope these ideas can help your with your next visionary project!
Make sure you always keep learning and growing!
Shout out and tell me your take on Blade Runner 2049 in the comments section below
Story never ends!