5 Tips for Directors

December 6, 2017


1. You don't need a million dollars to make a movie.

Film making is expensive, there is no doubt about it. From Cameras to editing software to paying actors, the bill can add up really quickly. However with a little creativity, and a lot of patience, you would be surprised what you can make on a shoestring budget. Independent films like Tangerine were shot entirely on an iPhone 5s. Whether you are using a $400 phone or a $400,000 camera, the basic rules of film making still apply. Sure a lens with a crazy depth of field is nice, but a clever shot comes from the eye of a director not the camera he or she is using. You can get a pretty decent shot just using the rule of thirds and some natural light. (Pro tip- Intimate close up shots are a good way to mask your lack of audio equipment because it gets the camera's mic closer to the actor) Mac users have it better in the free video editing software department with iMovie, however both mac and PC have affordable options like Power Director which can be had for under a hundred bucks! At the end of the day, having the equipment is nice and can warrant a more professional production, but good story telling and creativity can still yield a good result, and with platforms like YouTube that celebrate a DIY kind of aesthetic, finding an audience for low budget work is easier than ever.

2. Be clear with what you want.

Our job as directors isn’t just as simple as knowing how to tell a good story. Good directors know how to communicate his or her ideas to their team to make the production move as smoothly and efficiently as possible. I cannot stress the importance of something as simple as a shot list. For those of you who have been around the block a few times, you know what I’m talking about. So many new directors and first time film makers (and don't worry, everyone was at some point) make the mistake of thinking they know exactly how a scene should look, therefore they show up to a shoot with the idea that they are going to direct an entire scene strictly based on what they say to everyone. In a perfect world, we would love to just point, shoot and have our actors do exactly as they are told. The reality is, describing a shot to a cast and crew as you go along and making sure they are all on the same page is incredibly difficult. Having at the very least a shot list means everyone comes to the set with the same information, ready to shoot. If you want to take it a step forward (and are talented with a pencil) you can create story boards or even basic 3d animations (assuming you have the skills and the toys to do so). A director should always have a master script or a bible as we called it back when I did theatre. This should have a copy of the shot list as well as all marks for the actors. Making a shot script is also a good idea. It may seem like a lot of extra work at first but it will make the actual production process that much easier for everyone involved. 



3. Learn when to let go.
Most Directors tend to be perfectionist, and that's okay, this is true for any artist, especially if we are emotionally attached to our work. That can be a good thing, the film can benefit from this for sure, however it’s important to remember when to take a step back and let the film go. It is very easy to get caught up in all the little details that can go into even a simple shot, however every director eventually reaches a point where the scene can no longer benefit from continued development. Most films run off a tight schedule, even if it is a one man independent project, the movie can't sit in your editing software forever. If you have told your story in the best way you can, it may be best to close your eyes and let her go.

4. View your team as collaborators, not workers.
As integral as the director is to a production, there is no doubt that we rely on the entire cast and crew to make the movie happen. Remember, film is a collaborative experience. Trust your designers, they want the movie to come out dope just as much as you do. With actors, let them experiment. Help them understand their characters instead of giving them line readings, they in turn will feel more comfortable and trust you as a director more (it's also little rude). When the entire production staff feels as if they are contributing as opposed to just doing leg work, it not only make the working environment that much more pleasant but all around makes for a better product.


5. It's okay to make a bad movie.
Hey, no one is perfect and everyone has to start somewhere. The first step to getting good at something is to suck at something. Everyone goes through it, some will deny it, but the truth is very few directors are proud of their first film, or even first couple of films. If your movie turns out to be trash, that's okay. Learn from it. Even directors like Ed Wood and Uwe Boll are celebrated for making terrible movies because even though the movies were trash, one thing was always apparent; they loved that they did. The bottom line is we make movies because we have a love for storytelling. There is no practical reason for doing what we do, but we do it anyways. Take a step back and remember why we do this. We are film makers. We manipulate time, light and sound to take our audience somewhere else. What we do is pretty dope, above any advice, remember this. Enjoy it.

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