Tips for directing – Part 2Posted: May 5, 2011
Following on from the previous blog post (and making up for a lack of one yesterday), we have more directing tips.
6. Trust your crew. Your crew are (presumably) competent in what they’re doing. If they advise another way of doing things that would be safer or more dramatic, listen to them. If they say “this won’t work”, listen to them. While (and on point 1, I’ve stated) it’s ultimately your call, you would be foolish not to listen to someone who is dedicated to a single aspect of the film. They’re going to look at it from the job they’re doing, while you will be looking at it as a director. Mutual respect is better than fear for teamwork.
7. Trust your instincts. While I was still a wee student, I was making short music videos. Often I just pasted together footage I thought would be relevant and go together from video games. I did find that what I was actually doing was bringing out my creativity subconsciously. It’s a general rule, but go with your instincts. If your instincts tell you, the actor didn’t sell the performance enough, or there’s just something wrong in the shot, listen to it. It’s usually right.
8. Know everything. Both onset and in terms of skills, know everything. Know about cinematography, know about lighting, know about sound, know about focus pulling, etc… The only way you’ll be able to talk with people on a technical level is to know what both you and they are talking about. Too light an image? Know about F-stops. Part of the image is too dark, know about backlighting. On set, you are king, and the king must know everything going on in his kingdom.
9. Know the genre. If you’re doing an action film, and you’ve not seen that many action films, you’re not going to know what the audience will like. By knowing the genre, you create intertextuality, you create interest in an audience. Why do you think George A Romero does a lot of horror films, or John Woo does a lot of action films? They know their genre well. They know what an audience wants out of their films. They know that blood is an integral aspect of horror films and they know how to use special effects and techniques that will get an audience pumped. They know that movement and style go hand in hand, that the more visually arresting images are ones with a lot of contrast. Know the genre and the audience will come to you.
10. Life’s a bitch, and so is the director. A directors job is to assemble, to manipulate and to forge. Sometimes you have to stop being the nice guy on set, stop the goofing around, take an actor aside, make them get into character. A character is meant to be upset? The director will have to get that to happen. Do whatever you need to do – tease, manipulate, scare, belittle, whatever. Your job is to get that out of your actors, and to know how to do it. Your job is not make friends. If you want to make up for whatever you had to do to the actor to get the best performance out of them, show them the rushes. Let them know that they did an amazing job. Let them know it was worth it.
So, that’s 10 tips for directing. Partly borne out of practice, partly theoretical, but all of them are very relevant to getting the best product overall.