Can you differentiate between the work of famous filmmakers and stock footage? It might be harder than you think, as this new video by Shutterstock demonstrates. The stock photography company culled from its library of more than 2 million video clips shot by 70,000 contributors to recreate the distinct visual styles of five famous directors–Wes Anderson, David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, Alfonso Cuaron, and Terence Malick. They wound up with a series of surprisingly convincing cinematic knockoffs.
“We just did keyword searches in our library to find clips that matched these directors’ recognizable styles,” Derick Rhodes of Shutterstock tells Co.Design. “We’d come across shots that felt like they could come out of their movies.”
To find Wes Anderson-esque shots, they’d search for clips tagged “pastels,” “saturated,” “cinematic,” and, of course, “symmetry,” with which the Texan director is notoriously obsessed. Also included: canoes, lighthouses, quaint gift boxes, broodily smoking women on park benches. To mimic David Fincher, they compiled clips that were “blue” or “macro,” and when paired with Fincher-esque music, the vibe felt like something straight out of Gone Girl or The Social Network.
“Tarantino was easy,” says co-director Niko Brown. “We just searched for ‘blood,’ ‘kung-fu,’ ‘stylish,’ and ‘retro.’” And for Cuaron, they imitated scenes from his space epic, Gravity: “We have a lot of footage of spaceships, the Earth from a distance, astronauts,” Brown says
The recreation of Terrence Malick’s style is the most parodic of the bunch: The directors wrote a voiceover in-house to poke fun at Malick’s lofty, poetic narrations. It almost sounds profound, until you realize it doesn’t mean anything at all. “It’s just nonsense,” Rhodes says. It’s spoken over gauzy, slow-motion shots of nature: people running through fields, patting reeds, sunlight peeking through autumn leaves.
If there’s a giveaway that these clips are actually not from the work of famous directors, it’s the people in them. “Wes Anderson usually uses interesting, unique-looking people, but I could only find images of conventionally good-looking models in the stock footage library,” Brown says. In one clip, a woman smokes a cigarette on a bench, but her clothing style doesn’t quite fit Wes Anderson’s retro-leaning eye.
But not every director can be copied so easily. There were a few that the pair failed to emulate. “David Lynch and Tim Burton were tough,” Brown says, calling Lynch’s style “deceptively complex.”
The video is a way of demonstrating how much you can do with stock footage and an homage to beloved directors’ aesthetics, but also a way of exposing their stylistic tropes and tendency to visually repeat themselves. To learn about the individual clips used to create this video, or to create your own stock footage tribute to a favorite director, go here.