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What Can New Independent Filmmakers Learn From Robert Altman?

Robert Altman is widely regarded as one of the greatest American directors of the 20th century. Over the course of his long and illustrious career, he directed dozens of films that were renowned for their unique style, complex characters, and layered storytelling. Altman was known for his innovative approach to filmmaking, which emphasized collaboration, improvisation, and a loose, almost documentary-like style of directing. Here are some directing lessons we can learn from his work.

Embrace the chaos

Altman was famous for his unconventional approach to filmmaking, which often involved working with large ensemble casts and letting them improvise their lines and actions. He believed that this approach created a sense of spontaneity and authenticity that was missing from more traditional, scripted movies. As a director, he was willing to embrace the chaos that came with this approach, knowing that it could lead to unexpected moments of brilliance.

Trust your actors

Altman had a deep respect for his actors and was known for giving them a great deal of creative freedom. He believed that the best performances came from actors who were allowed to make their own choices and bring their own interpretations to the characters they played. As a result, he was willing to let his actors experiment and take risks, knowing that it could lead to powerful and memorable performances.

Use sound to tell the story

Altman was a master of using sound to create mood and atmosphere in his films. He believed that sound was just as important as the visuals in telling a story, and he often used overlapping dialogue and ambient sound to create a sense of realism and depth. He also used music to great effect, often juxtaposing different styles and genres to create a sense of contrast and irony.

Don’t be afraid to tackle difficult subjects

Altman was known for tackling difficult and controversial subjects in his films, such as war, politics, and social injustice. He believed that cinema had a responsibility to address important issues and provoke thoughtful discussion, and he was willing to take risks in order to do so. As a director, he was never afraid to challenge his audiences and push the boundaries of what was considered acceptable in mainstream cinema.

Collaborate with your crew

Altman was known for his collaborative approach to filmmaking, and he worked closely with his crew to create his signature style. He was willing to listen to the ideas and suggestions of everyone involved in the production, from the actors to the cinematographer to the sound designer. He believed that the best films were made by teams of creative individuals working together towards a common goal.

In conclusion, Robert Altman was a visionary director who left a lasting impact on the world of cinema. His innovative approach to filmmaking, emphasis on collaboration and improvisation, and willingness to tackle difficult subjects continue to inspire and influence filmmakers today. By studying his work, aspiring directors can learn valuable lessons about the art and craft of filmmaking.

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