The Director’s Chair Issue #110 – August 28, 2010 (The Film Director’s Creative Process)
THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR
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August 28, 2010 Scene 11 – Take 7
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4. FEATURE ARTICLE: The Film Director’s Creative Process
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Welcome to Issue #110 of The Director’s Chair August 28, 2010
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2. Feature Article – The feature article this month is called
“The Film Director’s Creative Process – To be a film director
today, you need to know what is expected of you when you begin
pre-production, when you step on the set, and when you are in
the editing room.” (Read article below.)
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4. FEATURE ARTICLE: The Film Director’s Creative Process
(1) The Director
“The prospect of directing a film is overwhelming. Not only is
it not very clear or even agreed upon as to what a director
does, but there are very few guidelines for the learning
director. There is no particular structure or manual that
comes with the job.” Mark Travis (Directing Feature Films)
To be a film director today, you need to know what is expected
of you when you begin pre-production, when you step on the
set, and when you are in the editing room. And to do this
successfully you need to:
1. Understand the business and politics of the film and TV
2. Have complete confidence in yourself and faith in your
talent and ability
3. Have the courage and tenacity to stick it out “no matter
4. Have a relentless focus on what is possible rather than
what’s not possible
5. Never cease searching for your unique style and expression
6. Stay true to yourself: it will guide you to the right
people and the right choices
The film director is responsible for overseeing every creative
aspect of a film. They develop a vision, guide the actor’s
performance and determine what tone the film should have and
what an audience should gain from the cinematic experience.
The film director is, in short, the storyteller, and to be a
good storyteller you need to:
1. Have a good knowledge of your craft
2. Know as much as you can about everyone’s job
3. Listen to the people who know more than you do
4. Always ask questions
5. Be able to “listen for the truth”
6. But most of all, you need to have PASSION!
(2) Understanding the Script
There are many facets of a Director’s prep on any film or TV
show – from location scouts and creative meetings to casting
and scheduling. But the first, and most important part of your
job, is to understand the script – what the story is about;
the themes; the story points; the characters.
A director is a storyteller and to be a good storyteller, you
need to understand every detail about the story you are
Your script breakdown will be a never-ending process.
Understanding the story requires a lot of work on your part
because you need to take the script apart scene by scene to
find out what it is about, what works and what doesn’t.
Your prep time with the script is a “process of discovery”
because each time you read the script, you find out something
new about the story or the characters.
When interpreting the script, a director should know the
answers to these questions:
1. What attracted you to the story?
2. What is your POV?
3. What do YOU want to say?
4. What are YOUR themes?
5. What is your STYLE?
(3) The Classic Three Act Structure
ACT ONE (Set Up) (Ex: Boy meets girl)
– Who is the main character?
– What is the premise or theme?
– What is the story about?
– What are the main character’s needs and goals?
ACT TWO (Confrontation) (Ex: Boy loses girl and fights against
impossible odds to get her back)
– What are the obstacles facing the main character?
– What is the dramatic action?
ACT THREE (Resolution) (Ex: Boy gets girl)
– How does the story end?
– What happens to the main character?
– What happens to the other characters?
(4) Script and Scene Analysis
Script analysis is finding out who the characters are and what
happens to them.
1. What is the INTENT of the scene (what is the scene needed
2. What are the MAIN ELEMENTS of the scene (points to get
across to the audience?)
3. What is the EXPOSITION (what are the characters “doing”?)
4. Where is the CLIMAX (what is the turning point of the
5. What is the RESOLUTION (how is the theme resolved?)
6. What is the CONCLUSION (how does the scene end?)
7. Where is the CLIMAX / TURNING POINTS / CONFLICTS?
8. Where does the IDEA CHANGE? (beat or unit change)
9. What are the important LINES OF DIALOGUE?
10. Which character CONTROLS (pushes) a scene?
(5) Scene Beats
1. A good way to find the event of a scene is by breaking the
scene down into its BEATS which are moments in the script when
the scene changes direction.
2. The simplest way to identify beats is by subject – when the
subject changes, that’s a new beat. For actors, this beat
change is usually a change in the objective.
3. Every beat change is often punctuated by some physical
movement plus a change in the character’s action verb. (The
action verb is what the character is doing to get what he
4. By looking at each scene as a series of beats (smaller
units) the director can focus on the details. Scene beats are
an excellent way to design your blocking plan and figure out
your shots for any scene.
(6) Text and Subtext
1. TEXT is what is said (it is the outer world of the
2. The text is what we get from the screenwriter. Text is what
forms the script – it is the dialogue and the stage
3. The Text in a script is like a map: we use it to find out
where we are going – but the interpretation is up to the
director and the actors.
4. SUBTEXT is what is thought (it is the inner world of the
5. People don’t always say what they’re thinking. Subtext is
what your characters really think or believe: it is the
content underneath the spoken dialogue.
6. What characters are really thinking has a great effect on
how actors move and how they deliver their lines.
(7) Working with the Script
1. Work with the script and tailor it to your view
2. Be absorbed in the story (research everything about it)
3. Understand story structure (the 5W’s)
4. Find out what is really going on
5. Do you believe the characters? If you don’t, neither will
6. Understand story structure. Any weakness in script will
show up on set
7. Always know where you are going in the story
8. Take the main question and translate it throughout the film
9. What is the problem to be solved then make sure many
obstacles are in the way
10. Get inside the character (create a world under the text)
(8) The Actor-Director Relationship
1. What do actors want from this relationship? TRUST!
2. If actors feel they cannot trust the director to know a
good performance from a bad performance, they will begin to
monitor their own performances. And when actors begin to watch
themselves, they begin to direct themselves. They become
3. Actors want to work with someone who understands them and
4. To find a character they are playing, an actor must
surrender completely to feelings and impulses. A good director
understands an actor’s vulnerability and creates a safe place
for them to perform.
(9) Character Objectives
The Director’s Mantra: “Motive (Our Thoughts) Determines
Behavior (Our Actions)”
Once you know what motivates a person to achieve their daily
needs, you will have the knowledge to better understand the
story, and you will feel more confident about helping actors
achieve believable performances.
1. HOW TO CHOOSE OBJECTIVES
– Ask yourself “What does the character want in this
– A character’s objective should create obstacles for the
character in the story
– Look at what the character does rather than what he says
– Look at what happens in the scene and how it ends
– Look at what people want out of life (some things we will
sacrifice everything for)
2. SUPER OBJECTIVE (“Power Over People”)
– What is the primal motivation of the character?
– What are the main needs of the character?
3. OBJECTIVES (“To Dominate X”)
– What does the character want (motives)?
– What are his active choices to achieve the super objective?
4. MAIN ACTIONS (“What They Do To X”)
– What the character DOES…
– To get what he WANTS…
– To fulfill his NEEDS!
When casting, you want to look for: acting ability, physical
characteristics, subtleties in style and the chemistry between
other actors. Here are the top three qualities you look for in
1. Do they look the part? (The 50% Rule)
2. Do they have range? (Laugh to Cry. Is it believable?)
3. Can they take direction? (Listen to you, process,
Here are some other qualities you want to look for as well:
1. Is the character type in the actor? (Does he look like a
2. What is the persona / image of the character? (In the
3. What is the persona / image of the actor? (What do they
think of themselves?)
4. Does the actor make active choices? (Action – Reaction)
5. Judge the actor by what he does – not what he says
6. What is the actor’s rhythm & movement pattern? (Body
7. Have the actor play the objective
8. Have the actor up the stakes in the objective (to demand;
9. Never cast an actor who cannot play the objectives or can’t
10. Make note of all the negative qualities of the actor
(11) The Director’s Visual Concept
1. What is the first image in your film?
2. What is the last image in your film?
3. What do you want the audience to feel at the end of the
4. What is your Visual MOTIF? A motif establishes a mood and
recurs often to help develop the theme. (Ex. Film Noir) Repeat
a motif and it becomes a STYLE.
5. What is the audience is going to see? (What is your POV?)
6. What is the pacing and mood of the film?
7. What dialogue is the most important to be heard?
8. What is the RHYTHM of the story / scene / act? (What is the
(12) Understanding Camera Techniques
As a film director, you need to know and understand the
various camera techniques that can influence and enhance the
structure of your film.
You don’t have to know how to work all the technical equipment
on a film set, but this knowledge is crucial because it will
help you to communicate more efficiently with the DOP, camera
operator, sound mixer, editor etc. Remember, the more
correctly you can explain a technical detail to the crew, the
better chance of getting it.
1. Shot size (TCU – WS)
2. 180 Degree Rule (Line of action)
3. Composition (Frame balance)
4. Over-the-shoulder shots (OS)
5. Point-of-view (POV)
6. Profile shots
7. Wide angle lenses
8. Long lenses
10. Depth of field
11. Camera angles (high/low, eye-level/dutch)
12. Moving camera
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