Tuesday, August 28, 2007


"Some people direct movies for a living; then there are filmmakers who live to direct
- DAVID CRONENBERG (Director of Crash and The Fly)

Directing has not changed drastically since the beginning of cinema. Since the birth of sound movies, the main phase of directing has involved the orchestration of the action being filmed, which assures that the action and dialogue correspond to a certain vision of the screenplay, properly transforming the scenario into action, light, and sound.

However, the director's job starts even before he visits the set. Preparation is the key to good film making, and one of the first steps of preparation is the storyboard, which is a series of drawings used as visual representation of the shooting script. The sketches represent the key shots in the scripted scenes and demonstrate the framing, camera angle, blocking, character movement in the frame and basic props and sets. Dialogue, effects, et cetera, appear below the pictures. The storyboard is used to help the filmmaker visualize how the parts of the film will look and flow together.

Directors without much drawing skill may resort to overhead diagrams which present the artistically rendered location with an overhead view in order to show everything at one time. V's are drawn to show where the camera angles are.

Because the director isn't required to do anything that requires drawing, the director may instead put together a shot list, which is a list of all the intended shots to be made in the film. The shot list gives a good idea about the time it will take to shoot the film and also helps the set decorators understand what is expected of them.

While on the set, the primary duties of the director include: instructing the technical crew about masters and coverage; consulting the cinematographer; controlling actors and performances; administrating the flow of people, consulting on budgets; and dealing with outside pressures.

The director must know when a script is ready and when to order a rewrite. He or she must also understand how to evoke the best performances possible. The director supervises set and costume design, oversees all of the filming, and makes sure that the lighting is perfect. When the director deems it necessary, particular scenes may be reshot or some cast members may be replaced. He carefully observes the rushes, supervises the pace of the editing, and how it fits with the music.

Even though the actual value of the director to the film isn't agreed upon, the industry plays up the role of the director for purposes of publicity, especially if the director has been associated with movies that have recently been popular.

However, not all directors have "final cut," or the right to determine the editing of their films; final cut is most often reserved for studios and a handful of people who have proven efficient at delivering satisfactory movies. A director's ability to bring a film in on time and within the budget is, at this point, his or her most sought after quality. But if gaps in continuity are discovered in the cutting room, the director is in charge of the pickups, or the shots filmed after the completion of the regular shooting schedule, in an effort to cover up the errors.

The Directors Guild of America, Inc. (DGA), which has headquarters in Hollywood and New York, represents more than 10,000 directors and assistant directors working in the U.S. and overseas. The purpose of the DGA, says president Gene Reynolds, is to "Protect directorial teams' legal and artistic rights, contend for their creative freedom, and strengthen their ability to develop meaningful and credible careers."

In the early years of film, command of the technology was the primary concern, and very few directors were capable of distinguishing themselves by incorporating artistic vision into the new medium of cinema.

Directors were not highly valued at first, and this mind set, at about 1919, drove filmmakers such as Charlie Chaplin to form United Artists in attempt to give directors credit as artists.

The struggle for director recognition in America has always been associated with box-office receipts and a capacity to battle moguls, or studio owners, who were eager to take credit. In the era of classic studio films, only those such as Alfred Hitchcock maintained the kind of inherent talent that executives were wise enough not to tamper with.

The Director's Guild of America began as the Screen Directors Guild, and represented about 75 motion picture directors, and by 1938 represented 95 percent of the directors and assistant directors that worked in Hollywood. Early deals with the studios dealt with minimum salaries, a standard of working conditions, creative rights, and screen credits. In 1950, the Guild assessed a television contract and in 1960 it combined with the Radio and Television Directors Guild to become the Directors Guild of America, Inc.



Karen said...

Wow ! You really know a lot about making movies ! I'll admit I never thought about what went into a movie before. I just like to get caught up in the story.

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Calista said...

I try to keep up, but u offer tooooooooooo many information.
Anyway, this is good, I can learn something!

Paper Fan Club said...

Unless your name is Spielberg or Eastwood, it seems that directors are often overlooked or too easily overshadowed by the studios. It takes great fortitude to get the picture made that you want, IMHO.

Ash said...

These movie production posts have been a must read and a real inspiration to actually get off my backside and start writing a screenplay myself, something I've wanted to do for ages.

Great work you've done here.


Yoga Gal said...

Yes, an editor has a great impact on the final result of a film but a film is a Director's media. I greatly despair when I see talented writers I admire turn to Hollywood to become screenwriters. It;s a Dircetor's vesion you're going to see not the writers. Ah me, I really upset a very talent writer by telling him not to whore his talents to Hollywood. he didn't understand that he is a poetic genius and Hollywood isn't a town for poets!