Steven Soderbergh, director of such films as Contagion, Erin Brockovich, and the Ocean’s Trilogy, has a unique take on how much information the audience should be given, and how much they shouldn’t. Soderbergh ignores the classic tropes of filmmaking and strives to present information to the audience in new and exciting ways.
Audiences are getting better at picking up on minute details and inferring outcomes. However, many filmmakers still feel they should lay all of the information out for you. This often makes things drab and predictable for the audience, to be told or shown things that they already know. Soderbergh takes a new approach.
While he strives to show everything in a new unique way, he also cuts out any spoon-feeding. Declan Taaffe from Writing With The Camera uses the example of a character walking into an office and speaking with a character. These shots are so common they are ingrained into our mind. Establishing shot of office building > wide shot of room > over-the-shoulder > close up on face. The dialogue follows the same tropes, with the character behind the desk giving introduction as to who they are followed by the newcomer proposing a question or terms. These little details and shots are effective – we know who everyone is and what they want. However, Soderbergh thinks giving all of this information is unnecessary. Instead, as shown in a similar bank scene in Ocean’s 11, he sets the camera in one spot and that’s it. Character states their business. Done. Soderbergh ignores all of the classic film techniques and shows just what he needs to show to keep the movie going.
As Soderbergh puts it, he tries to “be more adventurous and release information in a way that’s less traditional.” And less traditional he is. Known for cutting out establishing shots, removing unneeded dialogue, and splicing between important scenes with no filler in-between, Soderbergh still manages to showcase what’s most important in a film: the story.
In his efforts to give audiences character and scene information in new ways, Soderbergh has racked up both extremely positive (Behind The Candelabra, 2013) and negative reviews (The Good German, 2006). Bending the traditional way that stories are told doesn’t always work out, and sometimes the audience is looking for just a bit more information to be displayed. Soderbergh’s successes are extraordinary though, showing the necessity to take a risk and break the barriers of traditional storytelling.