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Friday 28 October 2011


I think everyone in the film industry has met directors who identify a little too heavily with the role. That's all a director is, a role, a function. People can get hypnotised by the role and become dictatorial or egotistical.

Let's be honest -- sometimes these directors get great results. But for me, the best directors are able to step in and out of the authoritative aspects of the role as and when necessary.

If a director is too strong, demanding, or Hitleristic, people suffer. The actors are less free, the crew are pressurized and the director himself is locked into a role. It's as if he's acting. Playing the role of director man.

Film directors are human beings too. They turn up to the film shoot crippled by family problems, headaches, insecurities. That's why the dictator style directing is so false, it oppresses the insecurity, the real life.

Directors have a vision. Sometimes the actors can't get there, sometimes the director of photography is adamant it should look different, sometimes you run out of daylight and everyone becomes an amateur again struggling to do anything to get the take.

There is a huge amount of psychology to directing. Are the actors feeling supported and valued? Do your crew respect you and believe in you? Great moments of artistic flow and magic are always balanced with moments of humble failure and confused insecurity.

Let's not forget: most films are terrible. Often the instincts of the director are flat out wrong. Sometimes it's a lack of talent, sometimes it's simply making a mistake in the room. You get asked "Should it be faster?", "Should the gun be in shot?" and you make a decision in the moment. You're a human being and sometimes you get it wrong.

Try as any filmmaker might, the fact remains that no director has total control. Films are living, breathing things. They're like the weather. You plan for sun but sometimes it pours. How can any director be in control when the secret to great art is so elusive?

Some of the best moments of cinema have been accidents, things that arrived in the moment. You have to be open to that. But you also have to know exactly what you want.

That's why practice is the key. In this day and age there is no excuse for upcoming directors to be sitting on their asses. Tarantino and Kevin Smith made it look like they just landed with a debut hit, but the truth is they both had previous projects which they stashed away.

Spielberg was making films at eight years old. That's a huge reason why he's one of the masters. But as we see, he doesn't always nail it. That's directing. That's art. Never stay too long with being discouraged.

The flip side is when you're precise and certain about something and no-one else gets it. The crew and cast doubt your judgement. Maybe you are certain of how to get the laugh in a scene, or how to have a chilling or tense moment. The job of the director is to catch these moments and nurture them into fruition. Sometimes; in fact, often, people will doubt your wisdom in the moment and be strong in resisting your direction.

These are usually the moments that make or break a film. If you're certain of something, if it's integral to your vision, insist on it. The director sees things others don't see. It's your job to confidently stride forth and bring it home. The best moments in my films are nearly always things that the actors resisted the most.

That's film directing.

1 comment:

  1. As a director, I love that the film is a living thing, affected by factors and people beyond my directorial control. That means the film always has the potential to be greater than my abilities.

    All I have to do is create and nurture the environment for it to thrive. Easier said than done, but it's one of the reasons I love directing.