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The Director’s Chair Issue #19 – Nov. 17, 2001 (The Art of Directing)

Free Monthly Ezine for Film and Television Directors

November 19, 2001          Scene 2 – Take 10

Published once a month.

Publisher: Peter D. Marshall
Email: mailto:pdm@actioncutprint.com
Web Site: http://www.actioncutprint.com


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1.  Introduction
2.  The Busy Person’s Guide to Directing
3.  FREE Bonus for Subscribers
4.  Action-Cut-Print!
5.  Back Issues of The Director’s Chair
6.  Quote of the Month
7.  Film and TV Domain Names
8.  Feature Article – “The Art of Directing”
9.  Directing Tip – Director and 1st AD Relationship
10. Tips for Young Filmmakers – Picking the Right Film School
11. Out Takes – More Useless Information
12. Share This Ezine
13. Suggestions & Comments
14. Subscribe & Unsubscribe Information
15. Copyright Information


Welcome to Issue #19 of The Director’s Chair (November 19, 2001).

1) NEW MONTHLY TIP – “Tips for Young Filmmakers.”

This monthly column will be written by Cody Agenten, a film
student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

2) THE FEATURE ARTICLE – “The Art of Directing”
by Randal K. West

There is a popular T-shirt that shows up around theatres and
television studios that states in bold print, “What I really want
to do is Direct”. Who wouldn’t?  The famous directors are second
only to stars.  Can you name a few famous directors?  Now, try to
name some screenplay writers or the composer of the last film you
saw.  Directing carries a certain mystique. In reality though,
many of the most successful director’s have found ways to
communicate their suggestions and reactions in the simplest,
least intimidating fashion.

3) THE DIRECTING TIP – The Director and 1st AD Relationship

4) TIPS FOR YOUNG FILMMAKERS – Picking the Right Film School

5) COMMENTS – I am always looking for comments about this ezine
and my web site, Action-Cut-Print! So if you have any comments,
suggestions, or advice, please email me at:

5) VOLUNTEERS NEEDED – If you would like to contribute articles,
tips, links of interest, industry news, interviews, special event
dates or other resources to The Director’s Chair or to
Action-Cut-Print! please email: mailto:pdm@actioncutprint.com



Peter D. Marshall


the best Film and Television Directing Websites and keep you
updated on the best Directing Websites in my weekly Directing
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Each issue will include more filmmaking Websites, links to film
and TV directing articles, and a weekly Directing Tip.


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To read back issues of The Director’s Chair, visit:


“The secret of acting is sincerity. Once you have learnt to
fake that, you’re made.”



“If you want to be on the Web, you need your own Domain Name!”

The Internet is now where the action is for the film and
television industry. Internet success stories like “The Blair
Witch Project” are becoming more and more common. The major
studios, TV networks and film production companies are creating
their own web presence. Independent film makers have their own
websites promoting their projects. Writers, directors, editors,
and actors can now showcase their demo reels to the world with the
use of streaming media.

If you’re serious about developing your own website, you will
also need to have your OWN domain name! And here’s why. Your
domain name is how people will find you on the Internet – and
it’s also how they will remember you. So having an original,
creative and easy-to-remember domain name, made up of film and TV
keywords, is one of the most crucial factors in creating a
successful Online presence.

To help you search for the perfect film and TV name for your
Website, I’ve created a special webpage for Film and Television
domain names – including resource articles on how to find your
perfect domain name and a list of over 20 high quality, top level
film and TV domain names for sale, such as:

=>  allfilmandtv.com
=>  canadianfilmtv.com
=>  cyberfilmstudios.com
=>  hollywoodfilmtv.com
=>  tvmoviesfilms.com

Remember, your domain name is YOUR IDENTITY on the Internet, and
you need to choose it wisely. And even if you already have a
website, you can help to advertise and market it by buying
multiple domains (filled with specific film and TV keywords) and
“pointing” those domains to your main website.

To find out more about getting your own Film and TV domain name,
click here: http://www.actioncutprint.com/filmdomains.html

8. FEATURE ARTICLE – “The Art of Directing”

“The Art of Directing” by Randal K. West

There is a popular T-shirt that shows up around theatres and
television studios that states in bold print, “What I really want
to do is Direct”. Who wouldn’t?  The famous directors are second
only to stars.  Can you name a few famous directors?  Now, try to
name some screenplay writers or the composer of the last film you
saw.  Directing carries a certain mystique. In reality though,
many of the most successful director’s have found ways to
communicate their suggestions and reactions in the simplest,
least intimidating fashion.  Whether you are working with
polished professionals or raw beginners, the desired effect is a
performance which blends an honest connection to the material
(the dialogue) with on-camera technique that conveys comfort and

Beginning directors must fight the temptation to “make a big
deal” out of the whole process and exhibit their marvelous
directing technique and their ability to shout orders and count
backwards from five.  I, however, would suggest that beginning
directors refrain from intimidating people (including the actors)
on the set and I would also suggest that they refrain from
wearing those swell ride jodhpurs and return the long black boots
and beret.

Unless you are directing a ‘live’ hot shoot, (something that goes
out live to viewers, unedited), tell the actors that no one will
see anything that is not well done.  The best of what you are
shooting (the raw footage) will be edited into something that
will please everyone.  By the time you have gone through the time
and expense to set up a shoot, the least expensive component is
the videotape.  So, reassure the talent that shooting until the
desired effect is achieved is not a big deal.  Talk with the
talent about what is going to happen and how you will communicate
with them.  If the talent seems particularly intimated, I
communicate with my crew and camera people in a very low-key
fashion, ask the technical director to roll tape and then begin
talking with the talent.  If I can get the talent going we just
record it.  I don’t count them down because that seems to scare
some people.

Delivering written script verbatim presents another set of
potential problems.  If the actors sound like they are reciting
memorized lines and if that text sounds completely written and
unbelievable, you must immediately begin exploring options to
make the words sound ‘real’.  Talk with the actors about the
dialogue.  Make them “ad-lib” about the subject.  Don’t let them
just paraphrase, make them put the material into their own
thoughts and then into their own words.  After you are convinced
that they really understand what the written text means and what
they should be conveying, take them back to the written text.  If
the written text still isn’t working, maybe you can shoot their
own re-wording of ad-lib and get more believable results.  If
not, then try coaching them through the material and shooting
without their knowledge.  You may need to ultimately shoot it in
pieces and cover the edits with B-roll (related shots that
illustrate the text).

Once you have solved the content issues, you can then address the
visual aspects.  Should your actor speak directly to the camera?
Unless it significantly serves the project or the talent is a
seasoned professional, I would not have them speak direct to
camera.  I find that if I build a rapport with the actor and then
move next to the camera lens, lean in and maintain strong eye
contact with them that by talking to a person they create a
stronger connection which will be captured on camera.

Coaching or directing actors through a written scene that is
dramatic or comic is much more complicated and sophisticated than
directing a ‘direct to camera’ piece or a ‘talking heads’
interview.  Of the two, dramatic acting is more forgiving.  You
can direct a dramatic scene that has “strong moments” and the
over-all scene can still be successful.  Comedy, however, either
works or it doesn’t.  Even the really funny guys don’t always get
it right.  Mel Brooks’ “Men in Tights” is a case in point.  So,
if you are a new director who is assigned to direct drama or
comedy what do you do? Start with the written word.  Encourage
your actors to explore the verbiage of their characters.  A
competent writer creates characters with unique characteristics
and features.  An actor should begin dissecting a role by
determining the fashion in which the character speaks and thinks.
Encourage your actors to make a list of all of their character’s
adjectives, verbs, metaphors, similes and forms of speech.
Studying this list will detail what the writer was trying to
achieve with regards to the flavor of the defining nature of your

The simple way to arrive at the “line intention” (what the
character is trying to accomplish by what they are saying) is to
have each of your actors reduce every important line of dialogue
to “I want” or “I need”.  For example the line may be, “I have to
go to the bathroom” which might mean “I have to empty my bladder”
or it might mean “I need to get out of the room because you are
too close to discovering my relationship with your wife”. Making
these types of actor choices will color and empower your actors’
performances.  Helping an actor to create the elements of acting
technique should ultimately help them free their performance and
allow them to create “in the moment” honesty.

More than a dramatic scene, a comedic scene is about timing,
rhythm, tempo and tone.  Comedy is dependant upon listening and
reacting, not just reciting lines.  In general, you should never
encourage your actors to think they are funny, tell them to
believe in their character and don’t act funny.

A perfect example is Leslie Nielsen, who is funny because he is
so committed to ‘believing’ in the characters he plays.  He is so
serious and straight about the credibility of these incredible
characters that it only increases how funny it seems.  If you
want your actors to be funny, eliminate the placing of their
tongues in their cheeks and the permanent wink in their eye.  In
other words, play it straight.

It’s difficult to overcome a script that isn’t funny but
overacting and pandering is a surefire way to cripple what might
be a funny scene. Be sure to encourage your actors to trust the
silence in comedy. Usually silence sets up a punch line. The
silence before a punch line focuses an audience’s attention and
then a well timed punch line delivers the laugh.  Television does
present an interesting challenge regarding viewer laughs.  Live
theatre allows an actor to “hold for laughs” because the live
audience is part of the laughter and they expect the actors to
wait for the laughter to peak before going on.  In television, if
we are working without a laugh track, a director should create
some form of business (drinking from a glass, picking up a piece
of mail) to allow an actor to have a visual reason to hold for an
anticipated laugh.  If you don’t adjust your timing to allow for
laughter you will send a subconscious message to the audience
that if they  laugh they will miss part of your scene.

Television and video tend to be expensive to produce.  This means
that as a director you never have the time you would wish to
rehearse. You must hire actors who can accept your coaching as
opposed to a more in-depth directing.

A well-constructed scene should play like a well-constructed fast
break by the Lakers, multiple players passing a basketball back
and forth in a perfectly choreographed fashion, in the end one
player slam-dunking the basketball in a fashion that approaches
art.  This same kind of instinctual give and take leading to a
payoff that delivers a poignant moment or a laugh is what a
director is trying to coordinate.  Hiring the right talent is at
least 60 percent of delivering a successful end product.  So,
don’t cheat the audition process, have the potential talent read
from your script and look for individuals who instinctually have
a feel for the material.  Do your homework before you arrive on
the set and arrive ready to create mutual trust between you and
your talent and then, more than the interpretation of lines,
encourage your actors to “keep alive and keep thinking” because
that’s the best advice a director can every give an actor.

Side Bar
Glossary of terms used to coach actors

Ad lib – dialogue that is created by the actors and not written
out or practiced before hand.

Blocking – any movement you’re going to give actors while on

Business – any action,(picking up a book, drinking from a glass),
that you ask an  actor to perform.

Cheat-to-camera – asking an actor to address the camera slightly
more directly rather than facing another actor directly, in order
to “open up” the shot and achieve a better camera angle.

Continuity – asking actors to repeat gestures and movement that
they have created during each take.  This will allow you to edit
the different shots together without the actor looking like they
are “jumping around”.

Marks – the marks you put on the floor to block the actors to hit
with their toes.  This allows you to predict the appropriate
camera shots and focus before the actor arrives at your mark.

Motivation – the “reason” an actor performs your blocking or your
business. As a director you should have a better explanation for
the blocking you give an actor to complete than “because I said
so” or “because you want to be paid”.

Pacing – the speed that you coach an actor to say their lines.

Rhythm – the innate rhythm of the words within a phrase and the
speed and tempo that exists between two actors exchanging lines.

Reaction shot – sometimes called “noddys” because they seem to be
shots of the “interviewer” nodding understanding or approval
while the “guest” is speaking.  These shots are used to cut to in
order to edit the guests comments without having the edit show.

Out of order – if a scene is to be shot out of order to
accommodate lighting and camera placement you must always be able
to assure the actors where they are in the script “now” and what
has come directly before this shot.

Randal K. West is the Vice President/Creative Director of
Hawthorne Direct Inc. http://www.hawthornedirect.com/Default.htm

9.  DIRECTING TIP – Director and 1st AD Relationship

In Television –

The 1st AD works WITH the Director FOR the Producer

In Features –

The 1st AD works FOR the Director, WITH the Producer


“Picking the Right Film School”

If you are reading this article and you’re a budding filmmaker,
chances are you want to go to school for it, if you’re not
already there.  If you’re not there yet, but want to get a great
film education, there are a lot of choices to choose from, some
better than others.  I will give you my insight into what I found
when searching for a Film School.

First and foremost, you must decide what realm of film you want
to work in.  If you’re a die-hard artist and want to work in the
independent film scene, or just as a film artist, there are a lot
of choices for you.  In this situation, I’d start by looking in
New York. They have the most developed art scene for film, and
great schools to boot.  Do some research into the schools, and
see how they are rated against others in the field you’re looking
at.  Chicago and Milwaukee are also good choices if money is a
large factor in your decision.  But remember: a good film
education will cost you, it’s just a fact of life.

Now, if you’re like me and want to direct your skills towards
Hollywood, there’s really only one place to go if you really want
to make it:  Hollywood.  Los Angeles and surrounding cities have
hundreds of two-year film schools for you to take on.  They don’t
cost a lot, and you can get lots of hands on training and project
work.  However, usually you won’t get too far with a two year
education, you often need a 4+ year education.

The two best schools that I know of in LA for this kind of
in-depth film degree are offered at USC School of Cinema-
Television, and Art Center College of Design, (of which I’m
attending starting in fall 2002).  USC is easier to get into, but
you don’t even get to touch a camera until your junior year,
while Art Center is VERY hard to get into, but you start film
work right away.  There is really only one problem with these
schools too: they cost an arm and a leg. But they also have
numerous contacts with LA based studios to help you get a job
right out of school.

I hope this article gave you a little insight into choosing the
right film school for you.  Picking a film school can be a very
hard decision, and since filmmaking is often very expensive, not
a cheap decision either.  If you have any further questions, you
can e-mail me at mailto:phorsaken@mailvision.net.

Keep those cameras rolling!

Cody Agenten
Cody is a young filmmaker from Northern Wisconsin who is
presently enrolled at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
To contact Cody, email: cody.agenten@gmail.com

11.  OUT TAKES – More Useless Information

1) A South Korean movie theater owner decided that the movie The
Sound of Music was too long.  His solution?  He shortened the
movie by cutting out all of the musical scenes!

2) The five most stolen items in a drugstore are batteries,
cosmetics, film, sunglasses, and, get this, Preparation H.
Apparently people are just too embarrassed to purchase the last
item.  And, just in case you are curious, one of Preparation H’s
main ingredient is shark liver oil.  The oil not only helps
shrink hemorrhoids, but will shrink any tissue.  As a result,
many older women in Florida use the stuff to help reduce the
appearance of wrinkles!

3) From space, the brightest man-made place is Las Vegas, Nevada.


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