At award ceremonies we see directors, writers, actors, producers and many others get awarded. But how do the judges even tell what’s good or bad?? Well I looked into each element and here’s what I perceive to be the roles and how they can be judged as good or really bad.
The Director oversees all the elements of a film. If all of the other elements elaborated below are great, that indicates great direction, and if they are all horrible, well, that’s indicative of bad direction. A true sense of direction is vision and tone. When you watch a movie that just kind of seems all over the place and doesn’t really know what it wants to be; that’s a poorly directed movie. The director is a vision caster and gets everyone on the set to realize and implement that vision using their skill.
Producers attain funding for the film and generally maintain organization of the scheduling to ensure that a film comes in on time and on budget. It’s typically not very easy to spot good or bad producing in a film. Sometimes, however, producers try to change the direction of the film and control the director too much. They might force a change in the script or something else to get something they want. You never can tell if this is the producer’s fault while watching a movie unless you’re told.
The cinematographer is closely linked with the director visually. The director tells him/her what he wants the shot to look like, and they make it happen. Lighting, camera angles, lenses, focus; these are all controlled by the cinematographer. Sometimes a film just looks amazing, like everything could be a painting, that’s great cinematography. It’s usually rare to see flat out bad cinematography, but it does happen occasionally, like when it’s just too dark to see what’s happening, or it feels like there are shadows where there shouldn’t be.
The editor brings all of the filmed scenes and cuts them together to form one streamlined film. It can be difficult to gauge good editing sometimes, because you never know what exactly the editor is working with. Maybe somebody is clearly in a different place when cutting back and forth between angles; that’s bad editing. But what if they had literally no other shots to use? That makes it bad directing. A good editor will cohesively tie all of the parts together, keeping a close eye while never losing sight of the greater picture. I think editors are very unsung heroes of the industry.
Production design generally encompasses sets, but it can also refer to all of the theatrical production elements, including costuming, hair, and makeup. This is relatively easy to discern. Some set pieces are unique and wonderfully constructed, and some are obviously rather fake. Costuming and makeup won’t jump out to the average person, but some wardrobes are interesting and add to the overall feel of a film, and some are bland or distracting. Makeup should be subtle but effective.
Writing is simply the written dialogue and descriptions of what is happening on screen. Often times a director might change the visual descriptions, but dialogue is usually an effective tell of how good the writing is. Good lines or quotes that stick with you, a good plot that moves efficiently and isn’t boring, distinct characters; these things are very noticeable.
Actors/Actresses; this one is obvious? Right? They sell the film characters. When your mind is completely hijacked by a scene or a piece of acting is when you know its good. Bad acting is when you can just tell they are reading it off a script. They don’t draw you into their performance at all. Great acting makes you believe they are that character, living in that moment and that moment only.
In the end, a lot of the elements of film making are difficult to be keenly aware of until you’ve seen lots of films and really look for these things. Enjoy watching!!!