Director’s Reference Files
Reference files are basically your visual inspiration for your movie, pictures of all kind that inspire you and help you communicate your vision to your team.
They are especially important for your meetings with your Director of Photography, as you build the future aesthetics of your film. Visuals for other departments are also a good idea, whether it’s costumes inspirations, character’s look, art, architecture…
Let’s dive into what kind of pictures you should collect and how to organize them.
They will be the main kind of files amongst all your visual references. They may be paintings, photos or movie screenshots. You will use them to discuss with your DP how you want your film to look like.
You can organize your visuals by :
- type of light (hard/soft light, shadows)
- color palette
- mood (melancholy, contentment, love, passion, betrayal, sadness, etc)
- scene atmospheres (night club, busy streets, wilderness, battlefield, coronation, etc)
The themes of your boards are very subjective and will depend on your project.
I know it can be a bit overwhelming. A good place to start is by discussing how the same kind of scenes look like in other movies, what you love about them, what you don’t.
These visuals will help your DP understand what you’re looking for. He will most likely come with his own visual references to discuss with you.
It’s less about specific facial features you want your actor to have than the feeling someone conveys, his attitude, a posture, an expression that helps understand your character. You may have pictures of costumes as well, as they will also contribute to define your character.
The most important thing is that these visuals will help the costume, hair and make-up department understand what you are looking for in the character, his personality and what you want him to convey.
This last category is for all your architecture inspiration, props ideas, style, specific designs, details you would add to your setting.
Pinterest is a great tool to organize all these visuals, stimulate your creativity and find inspiration around specific themes and atmospheres.
The downside is the image format. Pinterest favors portrait over landscape orientation as they look better in the image feed, and screenshots being wider than higher will appear tiny in comparison.
Other than that, it’s a great tool to organize all your boards. You can keep them secret or make some of them public and take the opportunity to grow your fellowship. You’ll get noticed by people who like your taste, potential collaborators or fans, who knows !