So you’ve been asked to write a director’s statement. First off, know that director statements are very specific parts of any proposal, and must reflect the very best of your film.
But what exactly is a director’s statement?
Where a screenwriter might be asked to provide a synopsis for the script so that interested parties can gain a better understanding into the writer’s mind, a director might be asked for a written proposal of his vision for a film. It’s the director’s interpretation of the script, and the leading tool in its production.
This could include the technical aspects of a film, such as framing and focus, as well as the practical ones–i.e. the film’s budget. But it’s not as daunting as it sounds, and is actually quite fun to write.
Who reads it, and why?
So who asks for a director’s statement? Well, it depends. If your film has not yet been made, and consists only of the writer’s script, you could be applying for funds or grants from funding bodies to cover your proposed film budget. Perhaps you’re kickstarting a campaign for the same reason. Or maybe you’re submitting your project idea to a competition.
Whatever the case you’ll probably have been asked for a director’s statement. Sometimes directors even use a statement to send to their cast, just to get them in a similar mindset. Mostly, this is to give people the information as to how, as a director, you plan to make the scriptwriter’s idea come alive.
If, on the other hand, your film has already been made, and you’re pushing it into a festival run, your statement might be needed for one of two reasons. One, so that parts of it (such as synopsis, logline or your objective as a director) might be included as part of your film’s summary, or two, it might be used as part of a press pack, so say that your film was a runner up/winner, you wouldn’t need to be as thoroughly interviewed a you would have been had reporting bodies not been sent your statement already. They could report on your film using your statement as a reliable source.
How long does it have to be?
Usually no longer than one side of A4. It needs to be brief and to the point. Remember, the statement is used as reference, and people won’t want to skim through an entire essay. So make sure not to go over the required word count, especially if specifically stated in the guidelines you’re adhering to, which are usually strict about length/word count. Here your summary skills will be called onto, as information is key.
What goes inside?
It’s always good to set up the premise of your film.
What is the story about? Here you can give away the main synopsis in a few sentences. You can talk about your main character, his or her dilemma, and the stakes of your story.
Also, What genre does it belong to? And the time period? Is it a modern-day horror? A fantasy-adventure film set in the desert? A mystery thriller neo-noir film that makes you feel just a little bit sick to the stomach? (That’s looking at you, Oldboy)
You can also talk about the film’s genesis. To what do you owe the idea’s origins and why do you identify with it?
What is the main theme of your film? Every film has got one, so think carefully! Even if you’re not sure, this is a good time to read through the script again with a critical eye. Are you going to be representing loneliness? Exploring an existential dilemma? Is it a man versus nature epic? Are you weaving a tale of revenge?
There will probably be a lot more underlying themes in your film, and these make up the subtext section of your project. You don’t have to touch on them all! Just the ones you think relevant.
As a director, you’ll have thought about the visual style, the aesthetics your film will adopt, and the visual choices you make that will complement the scriptwriter’s theme.
This can include anything from editing choices to production design, but whatever you include, make sure it stands out. What are your colour choices? Do the colours you’re going to use represent the themes you’re trying to evoke to the audience? So cold colours (greys, blues) to evoke isolation or warm tones for an idyllic feel? Will they match actors’ costumes?
Talk about your framing and focus, how you’re going to film, what mood or special effects you want to use, really anything visually important you want to include to show your project’s unique voice. This could also be technical difficulties you expect to or have faced throughout production.
If you’re writing this in application of funding, it can’t hurt for you to write what exact purpose you want the funding for. Do you already have a budget that lays out each expenditure you’ll need? You could give a quick overview as to what purpose your funding will serve. Is it for equipment, actors, festivals or specific on set locations?
Also, why as a director, do you want to do this? Is it to raise awareness on an issue? Do you want to have a social impact? How will your story affect other people?
Again, this is all up to you, it’s the director’s vision, and everyone is unique in their own way. It’s your time to shed a light on the way you want to work and how you want to achieve your passion.
The director’s vision complements the writer’s script in a way that it become the script’s progression. It’s the next step towards the production of a film, the director’s blueprint, a map of sorts that can serve as a guideline for multiple reasons. And only the director’s statement can really let people know exactly how the script will be transferred from page to screen.
Your vision, if it’s been well thought out and thoroughly developed, will separate you from the competition and shine a spotlight on your potential. Remember, it’s the way a film is told that makes the story unique.
Elena Alston is a script editor and content writer living in London. Recently graduated with an MA in creative writing at Brunel University, she specialises in screenplay editing and fantasy fiction, but also writes horror, sci-fi and satire.