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Issue #172 – May 20, 2017 (What is Expected of a Director?)

Issue #172 – May 20, 2017
(What is Expected of a Director?)

Directing a film is not only about visually interpreting the screenplay and creatively handling actors, it also includes the ability to complete a day’s work on time and on schedule.

Like any artist, a good director understands the necessity of working from the “inside out.” In other words, a good director needs to work on him/herself first so they can develop the artistic, logistic and emotional skills that will enable them to better see and hear “the truth” in their work.

To be a good film director, you also need to know the creative and technical filmmaking skills that are expected of you when you begin pre-production; when you step on the set; and when you are in the editing room.

Ultimately, I believe the Director’s main job is to empower their cast and crew to work creatively and collaboratively with one firm goal in mind: to make the best film they can within the budget and time they have.

What Are the Director’s Responsibilities?

Here’s a useful description from the *Director’s Guild of Canada (DGC) to give you an idea of what a film and television director’s responsibilities are:

(a) The Director is engaged by the Producer and assigned by the Producer to direct a Motion Picture. The Director directs whatever is seen and heard in a Motion Picture. The Director has the right to be present on the set whenever shooting is in progress. The fact that the Director may also render services as Producer or Writer or in any other capacity shall not change the Director’s job classification, with reference to work performed as a Director, and during the period of such work.

(b) The terms “Director” and “directing” as used herein shall include directing all related functions and activities required for translating and transferring the premise, idea, and/or concept to the audio-visual images.

(c) A Director’s duties include the following: survey and approve all locations and their use as they pertain to the directorial idea and need; directorial planning and breakdown of the shooting script; plot the camera angle and compositions within the frame; participate in determining the requirements of the set, costumes, make-up, props, etc., for their proper directorial perspective and mechanical functioning; participate in the final casting of all performers; rehearse actors, extras, and any of the visual and audio devices necessary for the completion of the Production; direct the action of all performers, extras, etc.; direct the dialogue as well as pre-recording and post-recording of dialogue; directorial supervision of the duties of the entire crew during the rehearsal and shooting periods; make such script changes as necessary, within the Director’s jurisdiction, for the proper audiovisual presentation of the Production; the right to the “first cut.”

(d) The Director’s total function is to contribute creatively to all the above elements and to guide, mould, and integrate them into one cohesive, dramatic, and aesthetic whole.
*Reprinted with permission from the Director’s Guild of Canada, Toronto, Ontario.

Five Types of Director

What kind of person becomes a director? What kind of experience do they need to have? Do they have to go to film school? Should they have industry experience in another crew position?

There are very few rules when it comes to declaring yourself a director because everyone’s background and circumstances are unique. What may work for one person may not (and probably won’t) work for another.

Directors can come from a creative background (writer, actor) or from a production background (DOP, editor.) They can learn their trade by going to film school or from shooting films on their own. But no matter what a director’s background or education, here are the “five types” of directors I think we all fit into. Which type of director are you – right now?

1. Newbie (Film School) Director

This director is usually a young film student who is just learning the filmmaking process. They only have a basic (mostly theoretical) knowledge of how a film is made and they have had very little practical “on-set” time working with actors or the camera.

2. Newbie (Film Professional) Director

This director is someone who has some film production experience in another crew position and they are given a chance to direct. They may have years of experience in that position but very little (or no) experience as a director. (ie: a producer, writer, 1st AD, editor, actor, DOP, stunt coordinator.)

3. Skilled (Technical) Director

This is an experienced director who focuses primarily on the technical aspects of the shot and scene with the crew. This director spends very little time giving direction to the actors. They may just “let the actors do their thing” or they may not know how to communicate with an actor.

4. Skilled (Performance) Director

This is an experienced director who understands the story and can get good performances from actors, but only has a basic knowledge of the technical aspects of filmmaking such as blocking, composition, camera placement, lens sizes etc.

5. Skilled (Art & Craft) Director

This is a director who is the perfect combination of the “Performance” director and the “Technical” director. They understand the actor and the acting process; they know how to work with the crew; they understand the editing process; and they know the technical aspects of film production well enough to communicate effectively with the crew.

NOTE: Did you know that the director is the only department head on a movie that doesn’t need any experience – and the film will still get made! I’m not joking. I’ve seen this happen to many times to be funny!

How to Work and Survive in the “Business”

I believe that to be successful in this business, you need to fully understand the Business of film; the Politics of film; the Power Players in film (and how to deal with them); and the Differences between film and television.

Here is the major difference between working on a feature film and on a television series: television is a Producer’s medium and a feature film is a Director’s medium. This fact alone will give you a distinct advantage when it comes to surviving in the film and TV industry!

Here are 10 tips I believe you need to have, learn or nurture to help you work and survive in the film and television business today:

1. You need film set Experience. (Make short films; go to film school; work for free.)

2. You need to make your own Luck. (This means being at the right place at the right time.)

3. You need to find, make and nurture industry Connections. (This is a “who you know” business.)

4. You need to have Determination. (You must always believe in yourself.)

5. You have to tap into your Creativity. (We are all born with a special gift. What’s yours?)

6. You need to know how to Market and Promote yourself. (To continue making movies for a living, you must treat it like a Business.)

7. You need to understand the Unspoken Rules of the film world. (These are the universal Film Industry politics.)

8. You have to Earn the respect of the cast & crew. (You cannot demand it.)

9. You need to Listen to everyone. (Especially those who know more than you do.)

10. You need to have PASSION! (Because some days that may be the only thing that will keep you going.)

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