This week I watched a short documentary-like video about Nicholas Winding Refn, most famous for directing the film Drive (2011, USA). He is a Danish filmmaker, who never actually attended a film school and started directing at quite an early age (26). Interestingly, even though he attests to writing or co-writing a lot of his films, he is actually dyslexic. This may influence his ‘organic’, unconventional filmmaking style.
He is said to go on set without any concrete storyboards and instead finds his shots and plans his compositions on location with his actors. He does however use index cards to roughly plan out what he will shoot every day (opting for drawings rather than words, which he claims makes it easier to explain ideas to his others). I’m not sure if I could shoot an entire film without any storyboards or floor plans, but I think it’s a really good place to start collating ideas for a scene. Although he does not identify as just a director, at heart is an ‘actor’s director’. He is renowned for having loving relationships with his actors, working with them closely in terms of blocking scenes and character ‘building’. He believes that the actors need to have a say in the creation of their character; something that I strongly believe in as well. If an actor is able to assemble their own character type, they will undoubtedly feel a stronger connection with the entity the have to ‘become’, which adds to the complexity and believability of the character. Winding Refn attempts to move away from the ‘authoritarian’ role of the film director, leaving the story open to other’s ideas. Apparently his scripts are very loose, which also enables improvisation and last minute changes to the narrative.
Winding Refn also shoots his scenes and films in chronological order. After he heard that American indie pioneer John Cassavetes shot some of his films chronologically, Refn decided to take a similar approach. In an interview with Scott Foundas he says that ‘It’s like a painting—you paint the movie as you go along, and I like the uncertainty of not knowing exactly how it’s going to turn out’. I think Winding Refn’s organic style demands this order of shooting. I know that if I go into a shoot without much of a plan (i.e. no storyboards or definite script), I automatically opt for a chronological shooting order because it aids in the continuity of the scene and also helps to pave the way and set the tone for the rest of the sequence. I know that shooting in order is not always logistically possible, but I think it’s a great thing to do if it’s practical. In my opinion, Winding Refn’s films are tightly unified by their style and continuity and the characters seem to develop and grow with the narratives, which could be partly due to the organic and chronological way they have been produced.