What do you actually do?
Good question! I get asked a lot.
What does the person at the helm actually do. It is their vision after all, how do they achieve it?
Can’t talk for them all, boy they’d hate that. Director’s have the biggest ego’s of all! (Trust me!)
Who does a Director work for? The EP? The Producer? The Studio/Production Company? My answer, it is the audience.
As a Director I need to make sure I use all the tools at my disposal to tell a story that the viewer who has decided to watch will understand and enjoy.
Let us start with the tools.
How are we going to shoot it? Well in my experience find a cinematographer who is on the same page as you. One who reads/understands the script and trusts you and your vision and takes it upon themselves to help it come alive. Working with the same DOP for years has allowed me to understand angles and sizes and just how big a role they play. What is the feel of the scene? More importantly how do we want the audience to feel? Do we shoot on the tripod do we go hand held or loose head? Let’s get that right!
Another important one. This is where the scene can really get set for tone. Harsh lighting sets us off in one way. Soft lighting in the complete opposite direction. What temperature do we want it? Cold, warm? Some of these are subtle touches but next time you watch a horror film then a comedy right after you’ll see how much lighting has a say in that tone.
I hate combining these, I really do! Between them they are more than just a necessity. I can go into bulk detail but I assume the majority that read this will skim over the technical stuff. But let me just say watch a film on mute and it doesn’t have much affect at all. Am I right? I’ve been lucky enough to have came up with an exceptional sound designer over the years who has shown me that with different effects and subtle noises that we can really help drive audiences closer to seat’s edge. I was also lucky enough to be introduced to a team of composers and to really see that the work they put in behind closed doors to help achieve the vision is incredible. A good composer has a lot of questions for you, answer them right and they won’t let you down!
“How am I suppose to see blood splat on a red door!” A classic quote! The color scheme plays a huge role in a lot of films. As a director you need to know your palette and more importantly you better stick with it! Film has so many subtleties that the Production Designer and Art Director are in charge of. From the props on the set. The pictures on the wall that may or may not reflect some important detail to the story. These things need to be in your head and you need to translate that going in.
The Editing Process
Oh boy. The fun part (Sarcasm intended). The biggest challenge of the edit suite is the fact you have been glued to this project for sometime already. It is easy to make mistakes and common to refuse to compromise. The first cut is always the longest. You need to decide what can go and what can stay. The most important thing you have to do here is accept criticism from fresh eyes. Fresh eyes are the ones that need to be able to understand the story and make sure it is coherent. Trust their judgement but don’t over extend that trust, there is a balance that needs to be maintained.
These are just a number of the things that I need to think about in Pre-Production, On Set and Post- Production. (Note: There are plenty more!)
Let’s talk the script. I’m lucky that I’m a writer and do get to direct my own content. But there is occasions you do not. You need to understand the script back to front. You need to understand every plot, sub-plot and every character arc. Then you need to show them using all the tools mentioned previously. If you are a writer it is easier. If not, work closely with the writer, you won’t always agree but at days end you are trying to tell the same story.
Now the ACTOR/S
They are the face/s of this project. The ones who have decided to take on the responsibility to help tell this story. The biggest challenge for an actor is walking the line between what is in your head and following their gut instinct. Which one is right? Sometimes both or neither, more times than not it is what is in the directors head.
Actors put themselves on the line for every job. When a film gets critiqued the first thing judged is normally the performance of the actor. So they are well in their rights to express thoughts, opinions and concerns. But the one thing that sometimes is forgotten? ALL OF THE ABOVE.
A director is telling a story that surpasses the actions of one character. Again I stress the rights to express all said above. But also remember there is method to madness. Things are put in or left out of the script for important reasons.
So what is the most important thing about directing?
In my opinion. TRUST. In both you and I.
Trust my vision. I trust you to help me execute it.
Film making is a team sport, as a Director you are the coach in the coaches box formulating the plays and trying to steer your team to the premiership.
So what do I do? Hopefully that sheds some light!