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How To Direct Like Quentin Tarantino – Visual Style Breakdown

Quentin Tarantino (QT) is arguably one of the best film directors that Hollywood has ever produced. He has been directing for about 24 years and he has been nominated and won countless awards. From the number of movies he has done, one can tell that QT believes in quality and not quantity.

He has produced just 8 films. Instead of focusing on the low number, his ingenuity lies in the efforts dissipated into each of the movies. All his movies from Pulp Fiction to Reservoir Dogs, from Inglorious Bastards to Kill Bill, were hits. Even Death Proof has its place in the Tarantinoverse.

The Film Guy created this remarkable video essay explaining the below.

You can read all of Quentin Tarantino’s Screenplays here.

Here is a breakdown of Tarantino’s visual style to illustrate why he is one of the best of all time.

Slow pace

His movies seem to have a slow pace. While some people see this as a minus, most people see it as a way to make the audience understand the movie. Having a slow pace is not a problem as long as each scene engages the audience. Due to this slow pace, Tarantino focuses more on long dialogue.

For instance, the bar scene in Inglorious Bastards took about 30 minutes and about 90 percent of the scene was covered by a lengthened dialogue. The ingenuity here lies in the fact that the scene and the dialogue got more interesting by the minute and so viewers were not bored.

Point of View (POV) shots

To get this kind of shots, the camera is positioned in a way that the audience sees from the eyes of one of the characters. He usually gets this shot from either the trunk of a car or while lying on the ground. This is a way of making the movie intense.

God’s eye

This kind of view is done by placing the camera above the head of the subject. Tarantino does this a lot in all his movies. This shot projects a situation where a bigger character than the actors is watching from above. Tarantino also uses this shot when a character is being monitored.

Extreme close up

Tarantino does this by placing the camera very close to the actor or his actions. This makes the scene more immersive and more intense.

Quick zoom

To do this, Tarantino zooms the camera in on the subject and withdraws it immediately. He repeats this several times in a minute. He uses this to introduce the arrival of a character. He also uses it to draw viewers’ attention to either the character of his/her actions.

He uses 360 cycling, Following/tracking shots and Push-ins to make the movie very interesting and captivating. This is why his viewers hardly blink all through his movies. In addition, he uses black and white backgrounds to represent flashbacks and he also uses shots where an actor looks into the mirror in a moment of sober reflection.

Another gimmick that makes him a success is foot shots. He knows how to tell stories with feet. One thing Tarantino does not like and hardly uses is Computer Generated Imagery (CGI). He believes that CGI should only be used for a stunt that is humanly impossible. He will rather hire a stunt man for stunts.

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  1. […] By Jonathan Roberts […]

  2. Uber Critic on August 14, 2017 at 8:20 pm

    I think Terry Gilliam’s advice to Tarantino was correct–and I have been referencing it for some years now. Obviously, Tarantino knows how to place lights, and how cameras work–however, you cannot be an expert at everything on (and off) the set, thus what Gilliam was advising, was that you must be a person who surrounds yourself with great talent, in every position of production. Why? Say if you hire a weak cinematographer, then it is garbage in, garbage out. You have to work with, or around, the poor work that your DP has given you. Elsewhere, if you hire bad actors, then you are stuck with their bad acting, which you have to fix in editing, or you have to live with it. If you work with a bad sound man, or bad editor, you’ll be dealing with the same. With that all in mind, if you pick the very best people available to you, for the job, you will receive the very best professional results; without you having to incur more work during production, or in-post, to fix a bad result, in one or more of the crucial positions of production. Gilliam was simply informing Tarantino, to learn how to recognize and recruit great talent as your support team, so that you don’t have to fill-in the gaps, real-time, or later. For instance, a person that I work with, messed up on audio recording for a film, which I am doing, thus I was forced to ask him to hire an engineer to fix said issues, in-post. This person, the fore, wanted to dismiss having to fix the issues. This has served to significantly delayed production, in terms of editing. Additionally, a 3rd party was hired to film footage of a interview subject, but the resulting shot was blurred. All this guy had to do, is turn on the camera, frame the shot, and properly focus the camera, but he failed to focus it. Since I was unable to re-film the shot, I had to live with it–though I had it enhanced, as much as possible by an FX man. That all said, these situations all had a cost, and led to hefty delays. I was obviously the best choice to film the shot, but was unavailable at the time, however, the interview should have waited until I was available. The party who forced the scheduling, and hired an unknown shooter (through another party), made a mistake. Now, did I have issues of my own, during portions of the shoot…that I controlled??? Yes! This happens during every shoot, and if you have the budget for fixes, and/or time for reshoots, you pay the price, that said, if you can avoid it, that is exactly what you do, by getting it right on the set, in the very first place, through hiring the right people, because you cannot possibly do it all. Say you are a great cinematographer, you may be called to focus solely on directing, or on directing and writing, or even directing, writing and producing, the latter 3 of which, are the focus, and specialty, of Tarantino, and those are a lot of moving parts to manage. this would include managing the personalities of your cast, crew, and other staff, etc. Now, if you have to deal with the lighting, the cinematography, and all other technical aspects of the production, you are doomed to crash, and so is your production, as you won’t be able to effectively concentrate, where you are most needed. A director wants to concentrate on the overall vision, not the small details, hence you are looking for people who you can collaborate with, persons who will take your vision, nail it, and expand upon it, thanks to their expertise. Again, you can’t possibly do it all. Your ultimate responsibility, is to deliver a clear, professional and entertaining product. How you get there, and the details of that, therein, don’t matter, as long as you get there.