October 26, 2013

Quentin Tarantino & Kevin Smith Weigh in on What It Takes to Be a Director

Tarantino & SmithWhen thinking about the filmmakers that carried the torch for independent cinema in the 90s, the names that immediately come to mind are Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith (and Robert Rodriguez, of course.) Both directors offer great insight into what it means to man the helm of a film project, including the importance of communicating your vision, and what the job of a director is really all about. Continue on for this incredibly important video from filmschoolthrucommentaries.

We all know that directing a film is a scary job full of responsibility. Everything begins and ends with you -- whether the film is a success or failure (especially failure,) most if not all of the blame is put on you. So much time is spent trying to figure out how exactly to direct, because directing is kind of this -- amorphic, nebulous position that relies a lot on instinct, taste, and style.

However, Tarantino and Smith talk about a couple of lessons they learned in their careers as directors, which you may find don't give the closure and relief you'd like, but do narrow down qualities that are essential and are the root of directing.

Tarantino talks about vision -- having a vision, acquiring a vision, and struggling with applying that vision to your work. It's probably one of the more confounding aspects of filmmaking, because we've all seen films where the director's vision was clear and there on the screen, and others where it wasn't. Both directors tried; one failed. Why?

He shares some advice he was given by Terry Gilliam before he shot Reservoir Dogs. Tarantino asked Gilliam just how he was able to get his vision up on the screen. Gilliam told him:

As a director, you don't have to do that. Your job is to hire talented people who can do that -- Your job is explaining your vision. Your job is articulating to them what you want on the screen.

As for Kevin Smith, he claims that the job of a director doesn't require a "great degree of talent," (easy, easy) but instead the ability to communicate well and answer questions "on a dime." Now, before people start flipping tables, here's his explanation:

All you have to do is be able to answer questions; that's what the job is -- You're always kind of open to suggestions, so really the direction job solely comes down to your ability to answer questions at a moment's notice and turn the ship on a dime if you have to. But basically, that's all they're trying to do; the whole crew, the whole cast, everybody's just trying to pull an image out of your head. As the director, clearly you're supposed to have an idea of what the shit's supposed to look like.

Check out the whole commentary below:

What do you think about Tarantino and Smith's take on directing? Let us know in the comments.

[via filmschoolthrucommentariesFilmmaker IQ]

Your Comment

28 Comments

Smith has no business dispensing advice for directing. Complete lack of skill or understanding of filmmaking. More to the point, he doesn't even seem to care. He is a hack.

October 26, 2013 at 10:58AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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James

Kevin Smith may be many things but he certainly isn't a hack. Not liking something doesn't automatically reduce it to hack status. Sure, he's made some bad films but so have most directors have. He has a distinct voice and his fanbase consistently come out and support him. He isn't afraid to reinvent himself and take economic chances to control his vision (Red State). Clerks and Chasing Amy are both films I'd happily watch above a lot of the stuff that is playing in the multiplexes at the moment.
He can give advice because he has made a career out of being a filmmaker that has had independent and studio films released in cinemas all over the planet. You don't need to like what he does and you don't need to listen to him but he has certainly earned the right to give his two cents.

October 26, 2013 at 11:29AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Mak

well said. James, let us know when your film is coming out., k buddy?

October 26, 2013 at 12:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Alan

Post a link to some of your short films or feature if you have one, James.

October 26, 2013 at 1:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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VinceGortho

October 26, 2013 at 2:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Raph

Are you saying if someone has never made a film they're not allowed to dislike Kevin Smith's work?!

Do you like every film you ever saw? Or are you a part of that small minority who've made a film of their own, and so get to pick and choose which films you like.

October 26, 2013 at 7:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Daniel

Is Kevin Smith the best director in the world? Probably not. But to say he isn't qualified to give advice on directing is just nonsense. The man has had failures and success. But he has had enough success to be worth listening to. He has been there and done that and he has to have something because someone keeps financing his films so to ignore him like him or not makes no sense. My father always told me to listen to everyone even when you think they are a fool because even fools learn something then use your brain to filter out the garbage from the good stuff. that advice has served me well over the years and indeed I have picked up good tidbits from the most unlikely sources. Never discount experience no matter the source you never know what you might miss out on. That being said I like many but not all of his films and would listen to anything he has to say. Peace out.

November 2, 2013 at 11:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gary

Here, here - a grade-A hackjob.

October 31, 2013 at 6:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Critic

I think you missed the entire point: Smith's opinion is that directing is about COMMUNICATION. That is a view shared by a lot of directors who say they are successful b/c they surround themselves with the best in their departments.
When Smith tried directing a A-List star like Bruce Willis, he very quickly found out how Hollywood thinks. Smith doesn't care if his DOP uses a 50mm lens or a 200m as long as he communicates to his DOP the image he wants.. unless you're Robert Rodriguez who pulls double duty as DOP, or a James Cameron who frustratingly shoves the DOP out of the way & does it himself.
Oh, btw, FILM-MAKING is much, MUCH more than the technical aspects (as Hollywood is quickly learning), it is a form of STORYTELLING. And Smith seems to know how to tell a story. THAT'S all that matters.
Hollywood (& you apparently) only look at the box office $$$ and judge a film according to THAT. Which is RIDICULOUS! In your mind, Michael Bay must be the greatest film maker who ever lived; you must think someone like Alfred Hitchcock was a hack b/c he never made BILLIONS of dollars like the $$$$ god Bay DOES.
And BTW, Kevin Smith has EVERY right to dispense advice: HE DIRECTED & ACTED FOR A LIVING! THAT gives him experience & permission

October 31, 2013 at 7:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Shannon Shaw

Anyone who has done something often has a right to dispense advice on how they did what they did. Period. You may not like their films, or think their advice poor, but they certainly have the right to share their opinion. Certainly (and unfortunately) you feel the right to share your opinion when you have far less experience and predictably nothing positive to say. Unfortunately, the internet is full of people like yourself.

June 10, 2015 at 5:03PM

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Michael Gyori
Editor, Camera Op
8

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June 10, 2015 at 5:03PM, Edited June 10, 5:07PM

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Michael Gyori
Editor, Camera Op
8

Tarantino shooting on a GH2?
I find that hard to believe.
Where are your sources?
Tarantino hates digital.
He only shoots on Film

http://youtu.be/BON9Ksn1PqI

October 26, 2013 at 5:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Aaron

Don't feed the troll.

October 26, 2013 at 6:01PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Mak

Would much rather learn from a director like David Lean. He was a true director.

October 26, 2013 at 7:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Then go watch this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EpORAz2R8U and stop being a douche here.

October 26, 2013 at 7:47PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Mitch

Thats a pretty arrogant unprovoked comment. I'm guessing your a tarantino fan boy. I was simply sharing my opinion that Lean was in a very different class. Where as Tarantino made a name for himself by stealing from Hong Kong cinema.

Kevin Smith I dont mind.

October 27, 2013 at 6:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I think it's arrogant that you get to decide who's a true director and who's not.

October 28, 2013 at 7:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Mitch

I dont "get to decide" it was just who I like. The day Tarantino makes a movie outside of his formula I will take another look but thats never going to happen. The difference between you and me is I would never mock you for your opinion, I'll mock Tarantino because he's the douche that plagiarised his way through the industry and is an arsehole to the people he works with but you should think about setting your standards a bit higher for your role model.

October 28, 2013 at 8:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Even a cruddy director can teach you things. It may be a hard lesion on watch, but you can learn..

Actually, QT did direct part of Grindhouse with a digital camera. But for the most part, yeah, he hates it( although his movie theatre does have a digital projector). He's even hinted at retiring earler if filmstock completely runs out for him to shoot with.

October 26, 2013 at 11:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Bolex16

you might be thinking of Rodriguez's portion of Grindhouse which was all digital - when QT's Death Proof was all film.

October 27, 2013 at 1:51AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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No, I meant QT. He directed a bit of second unit for RR's segment on Grindhouse. Although Tarantino gave a " thumbs up" when he was asked on the street if he liked shooting digital, it's obvious he didn't like it enough to shoot digital on his later films.

October 27, 2013 at 8:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Bolex16

Tarantino only shoots on FILM...and they look great

October 27, 2013 at 2:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DIO

I google searched "Tarantino shooting his next film on Panasonic GH2" and I can't find it anywhere.
Can you give us a link?

October 27, 2013 at 6:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Ian B

Remember, Tarantino came out of absolutely nowhere to become the hottest writer/director in Hollywood. He was sleeping on friends' couches while working at a video store when a producer read his stuff and said, "This is sick and twisted, but incredibly great stuff, man!" Watch the extras on the Pulp Fiction special edition DVD. Tarantino is having a discussion with Bruce Willis while screwing around with a little hand-held camera. During this discussion, he's giving Bruce directions as Bruce pulls up to a intersection in his little compact car. Their off-handed discussion is quite insightful. Within about 10 seconds, Bruce and Quentin discuss how someday soon, some high school kid will make a major motion picture for about $60,000 with a high resolution hand-held camera. Tarantino later elaborates on this in the additional footage about a scene that was cut. Tarantino talks about how he actually shoots the footage with a hand-held camera and later cuts the scene but was amazed at the quality of the footage. Remember, this was 1994.

November 2, 2013 at 4:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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MOJO RISING

I found that quite interesting. Thanks for posting.

February 6, 2014 at 7:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Dylan

You're an idiot.

July 7, 2014 at 10:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Josh

You know, I really do love nofilmschool. I love it because they have their finger on the pulse of independent filmmaking+. They try hard to be objective and insightful with their reviews and opinions. I do however have a growing distain for the trolls that frequent this site with their uneducated "he's a hack" and such comments. It's one thing to critique a filmmaker for their work but it's another to be just down right distasteful. Just like a playground bully to make themselves feel adequate. I'd love to see these guys thrown into a set and direct a non-hack noteworthy film.

July 7, 2014 at 11:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Jamison

Kevin Smith is a humble non-pretentious man who has made films that obviously speak to people. I think when people talk down about him it's a case of not liking something because your told that your not supposed to by high brow critics or what have you. I think he has shown that you can tell a meaningful story or just connect to people on a different level. I will personally voice my opinion on wether or not I like a film, but I never cut down a director. The bottom line is that he is making films that get seen by a large audience and I am not. It's just like Tarantino said, it's not like someone didn't try. I think the work of art, final product, or whatever you want to call it is what is standing on trial, not the filmmaker. Why cut someone down who is trying and probably putting more work into something than most people will ever do in their life. The motivation it takes to make a film is something most people lack. It's damn hard work making a film.

July 8, 2014 at 10:15AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Adam