Being a director is a weird job. I think of it as being the captain of a ship (or a Battlestar if you prefer). You need to be in control and in charge, but relaxed and calm. You need to know exactly what you need and how to get it while still listening to what everyone else needs and satisfying them. And you have to do it all within the schedule set by someone else. Being a director is a daunting, challenging task.
There is surprisingly little information on how to juggle everything a director does. Film schools tend to teach specific things; shots and lighting, acting, etc, but never really explain how to tie it all together. They teach skills, but not technique.
This is the first in an occasional series of posts I’ll be doing on the technique of directing. This is actually a repost of an excellent article by Patrick Tucker titled What a Film Director Does After They Say “Cut”.
The entire article is worth a look, but I’ve highlighted a sequence here that stands out to me:
How to Think Like a Director
As a director, you’re the point person for the production. This means you have to have to evaluate everything that comes your way and have an opinion on it. Believe it or not, that’s easier said than done.
1: Did you like the take?
On balance, were all the major elements in place? (framing; camera movement; lighting; design; properties; costumes; make-up; script; editing – will it cut to and from the surrounding shots; and DON’T FORGET TO THINK ABOUT THE ACTING.)
4: Weigh up the pros and cons of going again
Balance the wishes of the crew/actor requests on one side, and your knowledge of how much must be done today (and what is coming up) on the other. Is it better to correct something now, or wait to fix it in post-production?
6: The 10 Second Rule
Oh – all the above decisions, from #1 to #5, should be done in less than 10 seconds after you shouted “Cut!”. Longer than that, and you and your crew will lose momentum.
It’s that last one (number 6) that makes all the difference. Directors have the dubious honor of being the person who sets the tone for the day. If you’re on set and you’re stressed, anxious or hung over, the crew will feed off this negative energy. Likewise, if you’re smiling and generally having a good time, this positivity will translate too.
I always make it a point before any shoot to remind myself (and my AD!) to enjoy myself. It’s easy to forget, with everything going on during the day, and it never hurts to take a second and smile.
For the past three years, I’ve been trying to make it to Philadelphia’s Chinatown to see the New Year’s parade. The last time I was there was 2009, armed with only a Canon Powershot. Ever since, I’ve been eager to get back with some more substantial equipment. I finally got my chance this year – The Year of The Snake.
I put this piece together in about thirty hours. It was partly out of the fear of the content becoming irrelevant and partly because I wanted to see if I could do it. A project like this, with deadlines that only I subscribe to, could easily stretch out for nine months to a year if I let it. I review, I tinker, and before I know it, three months have passed. The piece has lost its relevance and I’m left with something that has no timetable at all.
No Fear in the Year of the Snake
I used to work in retail, where the Christmas/New Year’s holiday break was basically nonexistent. Because of this, I always made it a point to take off around the Lunar New Year, calling that my “holiday”. In a way, this is when my 2013 begins.
I have a strong dislike for snakes, which is to say they make me want to climb on a table a curl up into a ball. As such, the year of the snake is not something that I should look forward to. In fact, it’s something that I should run away from, or try to violently stab.
But, I’ve got a lot to look forward to. 2012 was simultaneously one of the hardest and most rewarding years of my life, and I don’t intend for 2013 to be anything less. We’ll see what the Year of the Snake holds.
I’m now selling my photographs on Fine Art America. Fine Art America is a great website that allows artist to connect with art lovers and offer their artwork with very little overhead cost. They have a wonderful selection of custom print sizes and matting and mounting options.
If you’re interested in a photo that I don’t have available on Fine Art America, please contact me and I’ll gladly add it to the collection.
Reefs, Kayaks and the Best Beer in Belize
Last spring, I had the opportunity to travel to Belize on a holiday, with a National Geographic Adventures tour.
The ten day trip was divided into two parts: exploring Belize’s islands and navigating the rainforest. This video is Part One, our time among the cayes and islands. Part Two will be forthcoming, and will focus on the trek through Belize’s rainforest and our personal guided investigation of some of the most spectacular ruins in the world.
While on the islands, we had a chance to sit down and talk to the locals, the Garifuna. They offer a fascinating perspective on the world. Our chef, Rachade, describes it by simply saying “On the island, you can be who you are.”
I brought two cameras to Belize: my 7D and a brand new GoPro Hero2. There are some stumbling blocks with the GoPro; poor underwater focusing and oversharpening degrade the images – but not to an unusable degree. This was long before the Protune firmware that elevated it to a true B camera, but the GoPro still holds its own. Sometimes we get so caught up in tech specs, we forget that the subject makes the shot.