How To

What do Film Directors do?

Photograph of the blog post author, Jon Skinner

Jon Skinner

15.4.2020

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Film Director Filming on steps

What do Film Directors do?

Filmmaking is a process which involves people working in collaboration with the director who has a central role in the creative aspects of the film making process.

They hold the artistic and creative skills of the project and everyone involved is supposed to work in collaboration under their guidance. But, sometimes the environment becomes pressured and difficult to work in due to various production issues, restrictions and going over budget, being pretty common. 

On the other hand, to be good at the job, a director needs to be well skilled and informed about the practicalities of the role. 

What does the Director do?

Film Camera Shooting

Director’s main responsibilities for a feature film or indie production is as follows:

  • Their first duty is to get a script written and secured. The great example of this was with James Cameron who held the script of project Aliens until he was selected as the director to direct that film.
  • They are the person who is hired by the producer, so having good credits and a good track record and profile is important.
  • A director is interlinked with the production company and remains part of the project throughout the whole filmmaking process. This is where directors such as Ridley Scott, JJ Abrams & Steven Spielberg all own production companies as well as being independent directors. Many of them will also act as a Producer or Exec Producer for the films they are work on. 

Pre-production:

Film making

When the director comes on board to begin pre-production, they will work closely with the 1st AD (assistant director), the producer, the production designer, costume dept, hair and makeup designer, DoP (director of photography) the actors and the production office. So it’s fair to say, they have a lot of plates to spin. 

The primary responsibilities of the director during pre-production are:

  • Keenly reading the script, focusing on its words develops an overall vision of a story. Then, the next step is to convert it into characters that formulate the best vision. If the story is character-based, then the director must drive such actions that are motivating and inspiring.
  • The director may request changes be made to the script by the writer if the original story isn’t perfect or there is a need for amendments in any character, situation or location. In the filming process or studio, rewriting is not done by the original writer but by the director.
  • After the director has broken the script, the next step is to work on scheduling shooting which is accompanied by 1st AD which is also a breakdown of the script. Shooting does not occur in chronological order. If several scenes are in one place, then they all will be done in a single session to save time and money.
  • The casting director works in collaboration with the director and producer and normally manages the auditions. 
  • The hired cast read through the script in preparation for the filming and of course meet with the director to discuss their vision for specific scenes or characters.
  • During casting some directors to give time to rehearse the script while others give this opportunity on set. But, this luxury is not provided by every director.  
  • In pre-production, meetings with the head of departments are held regularly. This is also dependent on each director’s preferences, as some like to meet while others prefer to oversee. 

What does a director do during production?

Walking with a pro camera
  • Guides through scenes. The director must give positive feedback to the actors on their good performance and guidance after every take to improve them. It is also the job to keep the script at the same stage on which casting is.
  • Ensures the job of every department: The director is the person who is responsible for ensuring that every department is doing his job or not. Further, it is a responsibility to provide them with their tasks supported by the head of the production.
  • Communicate with everyone as much as possible. Frank and direct communication is the key to a successful film. As the direction is collective work, so having open communication with team members gives you effective results. It also makes you aware of all the needs across the team.  
  • Keep the vision alive. To create an artist’s vision, a director must keep their eye on every department.
  • The principal of photography: During the film, a director makes 100s of decisions and will ask many questions of the DoP. Both of them will be focusing on photography and what’s going on camera. This can be very stressful due to hectic routines, there are less typical days on a shoot, rather, days become long and work is scheduled to the next day.
  • Post-production: In post-production, the collaboration of the director is with editors, music supervisors, designers and composers. The last stages of production are accompanied by working in the editing suites and studios. Along with producer and studio execs, they all make sure that the finished film is as best as it can be, which is then handed over to the marketing and promotional depts to get the film released. 

Relationship level of directors with production & crew team:

Western Film Set
  • Production designer.  They become involved in the project at a very early stage even during the first 16 weeks of pre-production. 
  • Director of photography. Once they’re attached to the project, DoPs spend a day or sometimes a week in the office before shooting. To capture combined efforts in all departments, a strong bond is necessary between the director of photography and film director. A combined effort is required for the authenticity of sets, props, makeup, dressing etc. This bond will generally result in long-lasting relationships as between the Coen Brothers and Roger Deakins, Steven Spielberg and Janusz Kaminski.
  • 1st AD. Probably, the most vital bond onset is with 1st AD. They are the person who is the first hand of the director and is aware of all the discussions of all departments. The hired person has multiple responsibilities to make sure that the director gets what he needs at the appropriate time. 
  • Makeup designer & costume designer. You will need the maximum amount of time as possible to select the designer and manufacture a wardrobe befitting the films need. The director will work with the designer to build up characters during the pre-production period. 

How to become a film director?

Filming in living room set

If you are simply beginning out and wish to direct films, you will have to grasp the fact there is no outlined simple path to follow. The one certainty is that if you have the passion, then it’s down to you to make it happen. 

That being said, some directors started out as administrators, editors or cinematographers, worked on films and from other directors on set. They then took opportunities as they rose to demonstrate their directorial talents through short films or medium budget productions.

Get some work experience on set! 

Your showreel is your job card and will provide producers and directors with a clear insight into your skill, so work on those short films. 

No quantity of networking will go a miss. Network, network, then do some more networking – it’s all about who you know to get your foot in the door. Your playground is the film industry, other aspiring directors, film crew members, film production companies, film school and film editors.

Tips on directing actors

Indie Film Making Process

Directing actors is a collaborative process from prep to wrap. Keep these things in mind when working with them on set:

  • Know who you’re working with. It is good to become aware of the actor with whom you are working and have not worked before. It’s good to do your research or speak to other directors to have worked with them before.
  • Include them in your process. It is better to make actors aware of how you work and what you expect of them, plan ahead which will help you get a better performance or result 
  • Create a calm and respectful environment. Don’t raise your voice or shout at actors as it creates unnecessary tension which is against the production environment. Show them as much support as possible.
  • Be prepared and be flexible. Keep a clear plan for each scene and be prepared to change and be flexible with any last-minute changes.
  • Give them space to work. It is better to talk about every scene during pre-production but at the time of camera rolling, let the actor do their thing. Speak after they have had a good opportunity to perform.
  • Don’t make them wait. Punctuality is mandatory. If actors are given a certain time, then make sure that all arrangements are delivered on time
  • Be direct. If you demand something from your actors, then be blunt and avoid sugar coating. Ask them directly and professionally as you can.
  • Avoid results-oriented direction. For example, don’t tell an actor you’d like them to cry at the end of a scene or say things like “I want the audience to feel ___ .” If an actor is only thinking about a result, this may block them from being able to emote and perform organically.
  • Be aware of their needs. Be conscious and aware of the needs of actors. Sometimes, actors need an escape from the scene so at that time you should be cooperative. 
  • Listen to their instincts. If writing does not make sense to an actor or he is facing trouble in getting it, then there should be the option of rewriting that line or scene, which has happened many times before. 

I hope you enjoyed this article and the tips provided. 

All the best, Music Gateway Team



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