Another week, another TikTok trend. TikTok challenges are famous mostly for being stupid. Some even cause extreme harm with a sort of grim Darwinesque natural selection vibe. However, this one is different. You could almost call it wholesome.
I’m talking, of course, about the current trend of Wes Anderson-ising your life into a 30-second clip in the style of the iconic movie director. Complete with a soundtrack from the score to The French Dispatch, and you’ve got yourself a very Insta-worthy little reel. So naturally, I had to try making my own.
At the time of writing, the #wesanderson trend has had 622 million views. Yes, you read that correctly, million. Of course, these tiny romanticised vignettes are merely a head nod towards the director, who has a very particular stylized aesthetic. This style is apparent in his movies such as The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Darjeeling Limited.
Gen Z is well known for being the “main character” of their lives, and this trend exemplifies that. It’s incredibly kitsch, almost to the point of being overly saccharine. And ironically, it feels almost devoid of the pathos that Anderson’s movies are full of. Somehow the juxtaposition between the color palette and perfect cinematography magnifies the often serious undertones and themes in his films.
One of the first reels that inspired this trend was simply a young woman taking a train journey to visit a friend in the aesthetic that has come to embody the Wes Anderson style. Another TikToker then went another step further by applying the trend to her home town in war-torn Ukraine, instantly providing that missing sense of pathos.
But what do you need to make a Wes Anderson-inspired reel of your life? Certainly, you don’t need to be living in such extreme circumstances. The key is to build a short story to show a slice of your life. Here is my effort based on my recent struggles with having no internet.
Of course, every good movie (or Instagram reel) must have a story. This is a day-in-the-life type stuff, no action sequences here. But of course, any film needs at least a plan, so come up with some ideas. Break it down. You’re not just making a coffee. What are the individual steps involved in making a coffee? Show those.
I found myself at a loose end this morning waiting around for the mobile phone company to send a technician to fix my internet connection. Two days without WiFi was certainly a first-world problem if ever there was one. My story is incredibly minimal, mundane, and so familiar to all of us that have been held hostage at home to a repair man or delivery. Making the story every-day-relatable is important here.
Still portraits versus flat backgrounds
The trend requires that there is at least one still or semi-still portrait of the character in the reel. They can be just standing as the train doors open, for example. Or they can be seated, doing some sort of minimal activity. Walking across the frame is also a favourite. But don’t get too dynamic. I really pushed the boat out by drinking coffee and reading a magazine in my reel. This showed the static activity of waiting for a technician to visit and restore my internet.
Similarly, the backgrounds are rather flat in Anderson’s films. There is little depth in his compositions. Unless, of course, he’s shooting with super wide anamorphic cine lenses, and then perplexingly, there is plenty of depth. But generally, you will want to choose fairly simple flat backdrops for your subject to stand against. This actually makes shooting in a city much easier.
Had to highlight Chicago for this Wes Anderson trend (more specifically wicker park)😭 #wesanderson #wesandersonfilm #wesandersontrend #obituary #fantasticmrfox #thefrenchdispatch #chicago #wickerpark #chicagotiktok #filmtok #cinematics #edits
Symmetry is everything. Your main character or characters must be centre stage, literally. If there are two people, then you need to place them in such a way that they create symmetry effortlessly. This is a must, it should not look forced.
For my reel, I made sure that everything was centred in the middle of the frame, including coffee cup, coffee machine, table, and sofa. I used a gorilla pod to hold my phone steady and mounted it on the back of a chair. You can also use a friend to hold the phone if you happen to have one of those lying around not doing anything.
You’re going to need to tidy your environment. Everything must be deliberate. There are no accidents in the world of Wes Anderson. Think of traditional photographic composition rules and then apply those to your video clips. Not easy in a 9:16 vertical format, but hey, I didn’t say this was going to be easy.
I managed to clear away all my clutter, leaving a very minimalist, clean (if you don’t look too closely!) environment. Definitely don’t look outside of the frame though, please!
One very important aspect of the trend is to pick a deliberate colour palette. Contrasting blue and orange hues work well, as do red and yellow splashes of colour. You can also increase the saturation and contrast somewhat and use a filter after editing if necessary. Bonus points if your subjects wear contrasting colours and have props that continue the theme.
I happened to have a bright orange blouse in my wardrobe which also worked nicely with the red coffee machine. Paired with orange writing, and suddenly everything looks a little bit stylised and deliberate.
Lisbon, but make it Wes Anderson ;) Here some of my favorite spots: 📍Ponto Final restaurant (try to make a reservation before) 📍Conoba Café (lots of vegan options!) 📍Miolo Café (perfect for brunch) 📍best Pastéis de nata: Castro & Manteigaria #lisbonportugal #lisbon #wesanderson #wesandersontrend #accidentalywesanderson
Stop motion or flat lay vignettes
A lot of these reels are using a mix of both stop motion or a still shot of objects. Both of these are effective devices to quickly tell a story. The still shot can be from any angle, side on or flat lay from above. The important part is that these objects are important to either the character and tell us something about them, or they tell us more about the story and set the scene.
So the object could be the ticket stub for the train or the magazine the subject will read on the train, which might also give further clues as to where the subject is headed. I chose to show the coffee table with a magazine and book from a top-down perspective as a nod to the analogue world I was faced with at this moment.
Many of the reels are starting with a cheeky “You’d better not act like you’re in a Wes Anderson film…” in a suitable font such as Futura. Additionally, you’re going to want to set the scene somehow, with the time and location and perhaps a snippet of info about what’s happening in this particular moment.
A particularly effective device would be to film a letter or typewriter if you’re being old school and really want to up the romance level. But this is 2023, and my subject was about having no WiFi, so I used my iPad to write it.
No movie is complete without a soundtrack. To jump on the bandwagon, you should use Obituary by Alexandre Desplat, which was used on the film soundtrack for The French Dispatch. No other piece of music will do. You can easily find and add this track via either Instagram or TikTok and then avoid all worries of copyright.
Now you know how to use the Wes Anderson aesthetic to make your own inspired reel. I can’t wait to see what you create!