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Directing 101

There’s No Business Like Show Business

bl dir 5There is a reason they call it the film business. Even if everyone is working for free, even if all your locations and production values are being donated, when you walk on a set as the director, you are responsible for those resources and getting them on the screen.

I hear a lot of aspiring filmmakers talking about their “vision,” and stamping their feet because they are not getting it. But you will only achieve your vision if you are skilled enough to bring it to fruition.

As the director, your primary responsibility is to “orchestrate” your resources to get the work done. If you are a Jedi Master, you may be able to do that single handedly, but that’s doubtful.

Be real. Be humble.

bl dir 12There is nothing worse than working for a tyrant that you know is covering up for their inexperience, or is making decisions based on ego. On movie sets, it’s the best idea that serves the movie that should win.

As a director you may be the most experienced person on the set or the least experienced. Either way, you often have to earn respect. It shouldn’t be that way, but it’s a fact.

If you are the most experienced, you will realize that you need get everyone on your side, to get the whole machine moving as a cohesive unit.

If you are inexperienced, you will need to lean heavily on your fellow cast and crew members and use their advice and creativity to get through the work. If you’re unsure of something, ask your comrades – ask for help.

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Be collaborative.

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You may be the director, but that doesn’t make you God. If you play that role, be ready to work alone.

A great movie is more than the sum of its parts. The collaboration of crafts on a movie is a special alchemy, which turns ideas, words, actors, cameras, lights, set, costumes, and all the other ingredients into a magical piece of art.

Be prepared.

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It’s your day. Manage it well. Unless you are on an unlimited budget, your primary job is to make your day.

Have a plan. Write it down, whether it be, a shot list or a plan view of the set with camera angles.

Very often there are problems, which are out of your control – production snafus, etc. Unfortunately this doesn’t always mean you get more time to fix the mistake or solve the problems. So have a plan B.

This often means you won’t get all your shots. In which case you will have to figure out a way to put the scene together in editing with what you have, or go back for expensive reshoots.

So watch the clock and make sure you get both sides of the scene. If time is running out, make sure you get the meat before you go for the gravy.

A word on shooting scenes in choreographed master. This is a great way of creating interesting and exciting cinema. You can shoot big chunks of the script in a small amount of time. You can let your camera dance with the actors and you can get the scene in one beautiful shot. But be aware that you won’t be able change anything in editing. You better be sure you love the camera move, you love the performance, and you love the pace of the scene.

Be flexible.

bl dir 10If you get fixated about how you see the end result in your mind, you will not allow the magic to happen.

Have a plan, a really good and detailed plan, but then let the day “flow.” Allow the creative process to evolve. There is someone there on the set to do everything that needs to be done. Just steer the ship. If something goes wrong, go back to the original plan or go to plan B.

When the filmmaking process is in motion, it presents all sorts of possibilities, which are never foreseen. It is the ability to capitalize on these opportunities that make a great film and makes you a great director.

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About the Author


Bruce Logan, ASC was born in London. His love of imagery started when he was hired by Stanley Kubrick to work under Douglas Trumbull on 2001: A Space Odyssey. He came to California in 1968 and worked as a DP on over a dozen films, including: Tron, Star Trek, Airplane, Firefox, High Road to China, The Incredible Shrinking Woman, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Big Bad Mama, and Jackson County Jail. He did visual photography for most of these films as well. He has shot commercial films for most of the major companies: Pepsi, GE, Visa, Chevrolet, Pontiac, DuPont, Contac, Sprint, Amtrak, Suzuki, Sunlight, and Armstrong. And—he has applied his talents to making music videos for such high profile performers as Prince, Madonna, Rod Stewart, Aerosmith, Glenn Frey, The Go-Gos, Karyn White, Tevin Campbell, Hank Williams, Jr., and Michael Cooper. See Bruce's full bio here.

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