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.