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5 importance things a film Director should know

Posted by WhatsUpNaija on July 11, 2013 at 3:40 AM

5 important things every film director should know before filming

I’ve got a lot of experience working on film sets, sitting next to directors, being paid to watch their every move (as is the job of a script supervisor). So here are some tips from me to make you a better director, 5 things every director should know before they work on a film set…

1. Understand what your crew member’s job roles are.

There may be 10 crew members on set or there may be hundreds. I have worked with directors on big and small film sets who still don’t know the difference between the Best Boy and the Grip. Do you know what a Script Supervisor does on set? Or perhaps what a Spark is? It’s not difficult just look on-line and learn what someone’s job is before you hire them. When you’ve worked on a few film sets you’ll be able to guess what everyone’s job role is just by looking at them.

2.  Learn how long each scene will realistically take to film.

Inexperienced directors always underestimate shooting time. A rule is that ‘On an average film set 4 pages of a script are shot per day’. Big Hollywood film sets can shoot as little as 2 shots a day. Expecting to shoot any more than 4 pages a day is possible but it must be planned; and the director must understand how long each scene will take to film. This all comes with experience.

(An exception to the 4 pages a day rule may be when shooting a montage. Also some experienced directors who know there craft can shoot much more and often without scripts e.g -Kelly Reichardt, Harmony Korine)

3.  You must communicate story time before filming begins

Many, many times have I worked with directors who think everyone on a set has the same vision as they do. We all have our own imaginations, like when a novel is read every reader has a different vision of the story in their mind. Scripts should help the reader understand the important details within the script that everyone should know. One important element within a script that is always over looked by directors is story time.

On one set I was on make-up and costume all presumed that the story within the script took place over 2 weeks. At the start of the film the main character was beaten up badly. On the second story day make-up covered the actor in bruises and cuts to match his fight from the previous day. When the actor walked on to set the director stood up and started to scream ‘Why have you put bruises on him the fight was 2 months ago!’ the director accused make-up of making a mistake; when it fact it was the directors fault for not stating ‘2 months later’ in the script.

Directors must talk to all heads of department about the story time of their film before filming. Whether its hours between scenes or just a few days make sure everyone has the same vision of story time as you do.

4. Know how much your cast and crew are being paid

There is a big issue with pay within the film industry. There is a rule ‘If I’m being paid your being paid’. Ignorant directors are the worst. Many directors I’ve worked with have no idea how much everyone is being paid to work for them. Regardless if it is the producer in charge of all the money, the director should know; they are the captain of the ship. Film sets tend to work better and harder if there’s money involved; and at the least if there’s good food in everyone’s belly. Know how to run your ship, you can’t push too hard if people aren’t being paid, they will leave you stranded.

5. We’re all here to help you

New directors make many mistakes. It’ is fine, you’re allowed, apologies if you can and move on. A mistake I made, that all inexperienced directors make is the paranoid belief that everyone is trying to stop you from making your film.

New directors are nervous, excited and very enthusiastic. It’s great! Although try to understand-If people don’t want to work an extra 3 hours after a 12 hour shift its not because they secretly dislike you. Producers are not stopping your vision by not letting you buy that expensive prop you suddenly have to have half way through the shoot. Let cinematographers have that precious shot they want even if it’s not in your vision and probably won’t make it in the edit,  it might be good. Listen to your continuity supervisor even if you’re running out of time to shoot at the end of the day, it might save your entire scene in the editing room. Don’t lie to your team; rumors spread quick on film sets, the rumors are always worse than the real issue. Listen to your 1st AD. Listen to your actors. Thank the runner for remembering how you take your cup of tea, ask them what they aspire to do in the film industry one day.

Relax. We’re all here to make your life easier. Knowledge comes with experience. In time you’ll think you know everything, you’ll glide through film sets with a smile, what is there to worry about, you own this place.

(I’m a big believer in practice makes perfect. No one is born with talent. Sometimes people have help at the start. Others have to make it happen. In time everyone can be the best at something. You just have to work hard and put the time in.)

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