Friday, 1 October 2010

Inside the mind of a director. Part one

It took me about ten years to finally fess-up that I was actually a director. It was like I was embarrassed to say it out loud. That it wasn't a proper job.
It wasn't until i went to Los Angeles to promote my first feature in 2005, did I really embrace it as a profession.
Over there people didn't say "You're a WHAT?" incredulously... instead when I said "I'm a director" they returned "Oh, cool. What kind of thing do you direct?".

Directing is something that carries a certain perception, and its always something people 'think' they can do, without really understanding what it means.
You could cheat, and surround yourself with very experienced Heads Of Department, who are prepared to carry you through a production, whilst you stand there looking lost.
Personally, my hackles go up when I hear about people who do that. But that's just me.

It's a long long blog that would suffice to explain what being a director is all about, and others have done it more eloquently than i.

Instead, I'd like to share what it's like for me, at this stage of my career, to be a director, and my perception of all the elements that you have to deal with.
It will be over two parts, because its a long subject, but I'll continue my trend of being honest and frank. Some people will wince at stuff in this, but I promise to not be offensive or rude.

1. Crew.
I always fight for my crew, and to get recognition for their efforts. At times Ive done it to the detriment of myself, but Ive done it willingly, so I am not about to whine about it now.
Ive been lucky to work with some very talented people, and unfortunate to work with people who are just in it for the "kudos".
If you are on one of my movies and you are working against the film or you are not pulling your weight/pissing about/being lazy, or you simply don't care, then... you'll make an enemy of me.
I love the films I work on and I treat them like my babies. if you don't care enough, you can get lost.
This, thankfully, is the case for a very small amount of people.
Most I work with are the most brilliant and committed, and nothing I have ever committed to screen would be there without them.

As a director. crew often find you cold or removed, and not willing to join in socially.
It goes with the territory, sadly.
With your head full of so many things, its impossible to just switch off and gossip or relax. especially during a shoot.

2. Cast.
This is a love/hate thing. To date, I'm still figuring out how to best work with actors.
They are often quite fragile emotionally, because they have to access emotion easily for the screen. So on the whole, they can be quite insecure creatures. this makes some of them borderline tiresome. especially, when they are afforded the kind of comfort or dispensations that equally hard-working crew are not.
I'm still learning patience with those kind of actors. it's a necessary evil, but one that tries your patience, when you are on a hard shoot with lots of problems to fix and a whole movie to keep in your head.
A moment of ego-centric behavior, or a self-serving suggestion for a scene, can sometimes make you want to plant your fist in their face.
But... You smile and play nicely. (just)

The type of actor I DO like, is the committed kind. the one who loves their craft and will do anything to make their character truthful and to serve the script.
I was lucky to work with a good number of these actors on the last film I made, and it was refreshing to hear suggestions, and see moments, that were actors completely devoted to their profession.

3. Producers

Its a thankless job being a good producer. You find and manage all the money and make it stretch to its absolute limit. You give everything you have, to get the maximum production value on screen. And then your director throws a hissy-fit because you dare to point out a slight problem on the rushes.

Personally, I have a lot of time for producers.
in the heat of battle, every word they have to say creatively seems like poisoning your baby. But, you have to listen if you respect them.

i have come across some bad producers. Yes.
Half-thought script notes, big egos, lack of sensitivity, apathy, etc etc. all the usual character traits.

But that's another blog much later on down the line when I can afford to do it!

For now.

I'll leave you with a joke told by Cinematographers.

"How many Directors does it take to change a light bulb?"

"I dunno. one?...maybe... two? three?...... What do YOU think?"


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