The Director’s Chair Issue #161 – March 10, 2015 (Does a Good Story Really Make a Good Film?)
THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR
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2. Bonuses for Subscribing to The Director’s Chair
3. “Directing Actors” 2 Day Workshop
4. FEATURE ARTICLE: Does a Good Story Really Make a Good Film?
5. Hitchcock Filmmakers Web Series: Hitch20
6. Film Directing Coach Services
7. Subscriber Shameless Self-Promotion
8. Filmmaking Links of Interest
9. Product Promotion and Film Workshops
10. Subscribe and Unsubscribe Information
11. Copyright Information
Welcome to Issue #161 of The Director’s Chair, March 10, 2015
1. The Feature Article this month is called: Does a good story
really make a good film? Three 3 M’s of moviemaking that all
films must have to succeed. By Jeffrey Michael Bays. “Maybe story
isn’t really that important anymore. I’ve heard so many times in
seminars, how-to books, film classes, and I’ve even said it
myself – that story is the most vital thing in a good film. We
repeat this basic tenant so often that we don’t even think about
it anymore. We just assume it’s true. Of course it’s true,
isn’t it?” (Read the rest of this article below.)
2. Please send any comments, suggestions, questions or advice to:
2. Two Bonuses For Subscribing To The Director’s Chair
Thank you very much for subscribing to this ezine.
BONUS #1 – Here is the link to download Day One (41 pages) of
“The Art and Craft of the Director Audio Seminar.”
BONUS #2 – Here is the link to download the first 30 pages of the
“Script Breakdown and Film Scheduling Online Course.”
IMPORTANT: Once the pdf file has opened on your browser, go to
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3. Directing Actors 2 Day Workshop: Vancouver May 2 & 3
Working with actors can be one of the most rewarding experiences
for a film director – or one of the most traumatic! And the
difference between a good experience and a bad experience usually
comes down to one word: TRUST!
Actors begin by trusting the director – and it’s the director’s
trust to lose. If an actor feels they cannot trust the director
to know a good performance from a bad performance, the actor will
begin to monitor his own performances.
And when an actor begins to watch himself, he begins to direct
himself – and when he does this, he starts to become Director
As Mark Travis says in his book Directing Feature Films, “As far
as relationships go, I think the one between actors and directors
is the most challenging. It is simultaneously demanding and
Yet it’s very clear that actors and directors all have the best
of intentions for making this relationship work. I have not met a
director who did not have a clear idea of what she wanted. And
every actor I have worked with has an intuitive instinct for
their character and how a scene can be played.
Why then does this relationship so often begin to fall apart when
actors and directors begin talking to each other? The answer is
quite simple: different languages and different ideas of how this
relationship should or could work.”
The main objective of this Directing Actors workshop is to
demonstrate how directors and actors can work effectively
together to build trust; to maximize performance on set; and
understand how to work together cooperatively in a tense,
time-sensitive and often challenging creative environment.
On Day One, the focus will be on the Director’s script
preparation, as well as live demonstrations of the audition
process, the script read-through and the cast rehearsal.
On Day Two, the class will be divided into groups and have the
opportunity to participate in directing a scene with professional
actors. Each scene will be recorded and played back for
discussion and review.
By the end of this 2-day workshop, you should be able to:
– Recognize the importance of the actor/director relationship
– Effectively breakdown and analyze every scene in your script
– Manage a proper casting session that gets results
– Organize a constructive script read-through
– Create productive rehearsals with your actors
– Improve your skills for getting believable performances from actors
NOTE: This 2 day directing workshop is limited to a maximum of 20
2. The Director/Actor Working Relationship
3. The Film Director’s Performance Mantra
4. The Director’s Script Preparation
5. The Director’s Audition Process
– What Directors Look for in the Casting Session
– How it Works: The Audition (Casting Session)
– How it Works: The First Callback
– How it Works: The Second Callback
– What Directors Look for when Reviewing Auditions
– Creating Good Character Descriptions (Bios)
6. DEMO: How to Conduct a Proper Casting Session
7. DEMO: The Script Read-Through
8. DEMO: The Cast Rehearsal
9. The Blocking and Rehearsal Process
10. The Director’s 9 Part Scene Breakdown Process
11. CLASS WORK: Prepare Scenes for Day 2 Presentations
1. CLASS EXERCISE: Scene Presentations with Actors
– Participants collaborate to direct a scene with professional
– Participants get hands-on directing experience working with
2. Playback Scene Presentations for Class Review
– The scenes will be recorded for playback and class discussion
– The actors will also participate with creative and constructive
3. That’s a Wrap
To find out the location and registration fee for this 2 day film
directing workshop, please visit Raindance Vancouver.
I hope to see you there 🙂
4. Feature Article: Does a good story really make a good film?
Does a good story really make a good film? Three 3 M’s of
moviemaking that all films must have to succeed.
By Jeffrey Michael Bays
Maybe story isn’t really that important anymore. I’ve heard so
many times in seminars, how-to books, film classes, and I’ve even
said it myself – that story is the most vital thing in a good
film. We repeat this basic tenant so often that we don’t even
think about it anymore. We just assume it’s true. Of course
it’s true, isn’t it?
But then I’ve sat through many Hollywood films in recent years
that didn’t have much of a story, watched indie films – some that
I really liked – that were vapid on story. Hitchcock was so
obsessed with manipulating us with voyeurism that his stories
often were an afterthought. Stephen Gaghan (Academy Award
winner) said recently that story is the last consideration in
writing his screenplays, after character and setting. Is there
something to that?
The older I get, and the more I think about it, I have to
question whether this long-held gospel of cinema is true. I’m
here to propose that story, while important, doesn’t necessarily
have to be the driving force that makes a good experience for an
audience. And, of course, you’re free to disagree.
Great storytellers and orators have known down through the eons
that it’s not the story, but how you tell it – the showmanship
behind it – that makes it enjoyable.
I’ve developed what I call the Three M’s of Moviemaking: three
key elements that all films must have in order to resonate with
an audience. As a director setting sail on your new project,
these are the three primary things you must consider: mood,
momentum, and manipulation.
1 – MOOD
Firstly, a good film captures and delivers a mood, or a series of
moods. The shifting of moods is where we feel a satisfying
emotional change as a film progresses.
It occurs to me that a great deal of film students and amateur
filmmakers are driven to make films of their own because they’re
chasing after something – a vague feeling or aesthetic – that
they enjoyed in their favorite movies. Fan fiction, after all,
is about recapturing the essence of a film you liked, say, about
Star Wars or any classic Film Noir.
There’s something romantic about recreating that feeling you get
when a detective in a fedora hat walks down a dark alley with a
cigarette. You hear a voice-over with a sarcastic macho voice
telling you about how his days of crime fighting are giving him
the blues. That’s not story! But that mood-setting effect has a
profound impact on us. We’re already hooked.
Recent psychological studies have demonstrated that when we sit
down and watch a movie, our emotional state changes to emulate
what’s on the screen. So yes, mood, is a huge factor to consider
when designing your film. Your job as a director is, first, a
2 – MOMENTUM
The second most important M in designing your film is momentum.
Nobody ever gets onto a roller coaster and asks, “Okay, what’s
the story?” Of course not. There is no story on a roller
coaster, but this doesn’t stop us from the enjoying the ride,
being jostled around safely at high speeds and letting gravity
pull you forward.
In movies, momentum – that forward feeling of anticipation – is
generated by various things. Hitchcock was able to use glances
and subjective camera language to lure you into a character’s
hidden secretive world. Sexual attraction is another one – if a
heartthrob is on the screen, we have a tendency to hang on to see
what they do, in fascination. There’s also the rubber-necking
effect – the thing that causes people to slow down and gawk when
they see an accident on the side of the road.
When a character is faced with a universally understood
situation, we immediately form empathy, and wait to see how they
handle it. Comedy is another one. If someone makes us laugh, we
wait to see what clever hijinks they’ll come up with next.
I could go on, but you see, creating momentum – kinetic energy –
is vital in your job as director. And notice I didn’t mention
story. Story does, of course, create momentum, but not on its
3 – MANIPULATION
The last M essential in a good movie is manipulation.
Card tricks and magic acts work because we enjoy the art of
trickery. Audiences love being fooled! Moviemakers, too, must
grasp this art and make it their ultimate goal. You must
manipulate your audience’s expectations. Use red herrings,
proverbial trap doors, mirrors, sleights of hand, and other gags
to get your audience to think, “I’ve been tricked, and I like
First manipulate what they know, and provoke them into wondering
what they don’t know. Give your audience secret information that
the characters don’t know, let one character withhold a secret
from another, or mislead the audience with false information.
Then by cleverly revealing this secret in a dramatic way, you
create a sense of satisfaction in the audience.
As a director you must play with the basic psychological need for
closure – that compelling itch to solve a puzzle. Just one more
move and it will be solved. The audience – like a mouse – when
trapped in a compelling mental maze, must feel like they’re on
the cusp of the exit. But then, you have to give them a
surprising new way out before they reach that exit. They will
love the feeling that they’ve discovered a secret door or a cheat
code to get past the expected outcome.
Audiences want to be playfully manipulated and tricked. They
need to feel that the movie isn’t just meandering randomly, that
the events aren’t just happening “because.” Audiences need the
satisfaction that someone has an intelligent plan, that there’s
something profound to be learned from these events, and that the
director has found a way to outwit our skepticism and make us
feel it unexpectedly. If your film doesn’t manipulate, no amount
of story is going to compensate.
Story just isn’t enough to make a good film. Directors must
create moods, generate momentum, and manipulate in order to be
successful at winning over their fans.
Jeffrey Michael Bays, MA, is author of ‘Between the Scenes’ and
‘How to Turn Your Boring Movie into a Hitchcock Thriller.’ He is
a contributor to MovieMaker Magazine, the Director’s Chair eZine,
and maintains the world’s top website dedicated to Hitchcock’s
cinematic techniques. He also directs films, and is producer of
the award-winning radio epic ‘Not From Space’ heard on XM
5. Hitchcock Web Series for Filmmakers: Hitch20
From Jeffrey Michael Bays:
Dear filmmakers and scholars,
Over the years I’ve seen an overwhelming number of filmmakers
eager to learn about his tricks. But why do they care so much?
In our final Hitch20 episode of the season, we explore this
question of why Alfred Hitchcock still has such a strong impact
on today’s directors. Screenwriter Ben Stirek compares Hitchcock
to The Beatles. Much to the surprise of casual fans, Hitchcock
was a fun prankster that enjoyed teasing his audience with humor
rather than creating sinister darkness.
“Wet Saturday” of Alfred Hitchcock Presents is a great example of
this use of humor. We look at this comedy of the absurd and his
unpredictable characters that make the unexpected possible.
FilmmakerIQ’s John Hess also questions the modern reliance on
flashbacks as a narrative device.
Guest commentary in this episode includes William C. Martell
(screenwriter for HBO and Showtime), Parker Mott (Film Slate
Magazine), John P. Hess (FilmmakerIQ), and actor/screenwriter Ben
Watch here: “Wet Saturday Exposé”
Episode 1 – “Revenge Unhinged” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wd-NG8XNgmA
Episode 2 – “Breakdown Broken Down” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKr0kR5QkF8
Episode 3 – “The Pelham Compendium” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8O7lhwLcNQ
HITCH20 explores the twenty episodes of TV that Hitchcock
personally directed. Each episode of this documentary web series
features guest appearances from various Hitchcock scholars and
film gurus with their insights on what makes these gems of TV
relevant to today’s indie directors.
Our series is written and produced by Jeffrey Michael Bays, M.A.,
author of ‘Between the Scenes’ and ‘How to Turn Your Movie into a
Hitchcock Thriller.’ He is a contributor to MovieMaker Magazine,
the Director’s Chair eZine, and maintains the world’s top website
dedicated to Hitchcock’s cinematic techniques.
Official site: http://www.borgus.com/hitch20 YouTube channel:
Thanks for keeping Hitchcock’s television works alive and well!
Jeffrey Michael Bays Author | Filmmaker Email: email@example.com |
Author of Between the Scenes available in book stores worldwide
6. Film Directing Coach – Peter D. Marshall
Actors, Singers and Athletes Have Private Coaches. So Why Not
Film and TV Directors? http://actioncutprint.com/filmdirectingcoach/
Hilary Swank used an acting coach to prepare for her role in Boys
Don’t Cry. She won her first Academy Award.
Singer Renee Fleming has always used a vocal coach. She has won
several Grammy Awards.
Rafael Nadal’s coach urged him on from the sidelines during his
Wimbledon tennis tournament win in 2010.
Arnold Palmer improved his game with the help of a coach. Even
Tiger Woods has had several coaches.
As a matter of fact, winners in nearly every profession
(athletes, actors, singers, business executives) know that
without the right coach, they won’t perform at their peak.
They know that without the support of an experienced and
qualified coach, they would constantly struggle to achieve
So if these top professionals in their respective fields use
coaches, why not film directors?
So why hire me as your film directing coach?
Along with my international teaching experiences and my 39 years
of professional filmmaking experience (as a TV Director and
Feature 1st AD), I feel I have the necessary qualifications to
help you achieve your dreams of being a creative and successful
independent film director.
With that in mind, I would like to introduce you to my Film
Directing Coaching services via Skype:
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8. Filmmaking Links of Interest
1. Neuroscientist takes scientific look at art of filmmaking
2. 6 Cinematic Techniques Alfred Hitchcock Used to Create
Suspense on TV bit.ly/1DeBLyG
3. The 2015 Oscar nominated editors for Best Film Editing talk
about the art of feature film cutting bit.ly/18hK4Ss
4. 1 Director, 2 Films, 50 Years Apart: How Much Has Martin
Scorsese’s Work Changed? bit.ly/1zLzTLl
5. “My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn” shows the toll that
filmmaking can take on directors bit.ly/1vPEh10
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