Thursday, February 4, 2010

Direction, the Director and Directing

I have no idea how to direct other than what I have read in a book, albeit a good one.  Deep down inside I know I can do it, but I am not about to place a bet on it professionally.  I can only tell you how to hire a Director.

In my experience, experience matters.  If you are hoping to get investors, actors, distributors or the public interested in your project, hire an experienced Director.  If you are making a no-budget film on DV, direct it yourself and become an experienced director.  Ditto if you are coming out of film school; direct a student project.

What I look for in a Director is experience within the genre of the film I am making.  They also need to have a passion for the project.  I look for someone who is knowledgeable about financial concerns and can adapt under pressure to deliver the shots whether on time or on a contracted schedule.

Directors need to gain the trust of the cast.  Actors are artists at the core.  They get into their roles.  A Director should know how to guide them and encourage them.  A Director that connects with cast will bring out the best performance.

Directing is not just about bringing the performance out of the talent.  A good Director is a good technical person.  Someone who can visualize every shot and how each fits into a sequence, and the sequence into the whole.  The Director works with the Director of Photography or Cinematographer and camera team to establish the look of the film.  They work with the Set Designer and art department to build the environment to match the desired look.  He/she works with the Costume Designer and Prop Master to dress the people and sets appropriately.  And finally, the Director work with the Visual Effects Supervisor to deliver elements to the film that do not exist in reality.

It is invaluable to have a Director who does not have tunnel vision and can address issues of budget and schedule with the Line Producer or Unit Production Manager.  During the shoot, the Director must work with the Production Manager to make sure that their are sufficient resources to complete the project with the Director's overall vision in tact.  A Director that treats the production office as a "bunch of suits" only puts their own reputation and vision at risk.  Sometimes change is unavoidable.  Alternate courses must be chosen.  The best Directors understand this and find creative solutions which often work better than what was originally planned because they are based on ingenuity.

The Director must create and share their vision of the film with the Producer.  In this regard they are your partner in "delivering the goods".  Since the Director is usually brought on board in Development or Pre-Production and stays through delivery, you will spend a lot of time with each other.  It is important to build a solid relationship and foundation of trust and communication.

Most Directors are given a Director's Cut as part of their deal.  For many reasons, as a Producer, I will not always give Final Cut to a Director.

While a Director's Cut is not the Final Cut, it is the direction headed after the Editor delivers the Fist Assembly.  I usually consult with the Editor and Director about my wishes and vision prior to the Assembly,.  Once the Director delivers their cut, time is of the essence and so choosing a Director who is open to suggestions is important for me.  If there is a firm delivery date for the film, it is difficult to re-edit the film from scratch after the Director's Cut.  Having a relationship built on communication and trust greatly reduces the likelihood of unforeseen surprises.

After Picture is Locked, the film goes to Sound Design and Score.  The Picture is also Color Corrected.  The Director is usually involved throughout this process.

In the end, the film's success is usually attributed to the Director, and its failure to the Producer.  Choose your Director wisely.

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