September 13, 2014 at 1:40PM

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Tips For A First Time Director?

I'v mostly done assisting work and script writing side of things, I've been given a chance to direct a Action/Adventure Web Series later this year. So, do you have any advice for a first time Director?

13 Comments

Like my profile says, I'm primarily a director of photography and try to stay away from directing, but I have experienced both successful and unsuccessful directors...

A big thing I've noticed working with new or first time directors is their inability to trust crew and cast. While this people are there to help you create your vision, they're also trying to add some of their style as well. You should see this as an advantage rather than a disadvantage. I once gaffed a shoot with a very "involved" director (to the point where he was controlling the specific colour temperature of our lights and managing the ISO on the camera) and it really brought the entire morale of the set down. My advice when working with a crew is to find people whose styles compliment your own and people whom you trust to further your vision, not combat it.

September 14, 2014 at 12:31AM

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Aidan Gray
Director of Photography Assistant Camera | Gaffer
1491

Understand the script and pay attention to the character's motivations before you go to the shoot. In my opinion, this is one of the hardest areas of filmmaking to come up with on the spot, because it sortof requires coming up with on the spot... everything else of a more technical nature either can be pre-planned more definitely or delegated.

In other words, if the actor isn't quite giving a convincing performance, you need to give them direction that helps in a way that is conducive to their headspace in the moment, and there is no way to do that unless you understand the character's motivations (as well as the actor's approach and sensitivities).

September 15, 2014 at 12:53AM

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Trust your crew. Hire people you trust and work well with. Know your script inside and out, know the background of everything and know why you're making the decisions you are, this will only help you get a better story. This will also help you explain the exact emotion or headspace you want for you actors in any given scene. Focus on story and performance first, everything else delegate to your crew so you can have to time and focus to your actors. Have a great AD. If everything is taken care of for you by your AD your job becomes a heck of a lot easier.

September 15, 2014 at 12:02PM

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Chase Axton
Cinematographer
1183

I agree with everything everyone has already said, but would just like to add always treat your crew right and with respect. There are a lot of directors out there who think yelling and screaming and tantrums are the way to motivate people, but I find when stuff inevitably goes wrong, a crew who are willing to go the extra mile for you because you're not an arsehole can really save the day!

September 15, 2014 at 1:11PM

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Jason Azcona
Director / Editor
120

Some great points here. Here's my 2 cents:

1. Be prepared. Do a shot list, storyboards, floor plans - whatever works for you. You can't ever be too prepared and the best thing about having a plan is the confidence it gives you. When things go wrong (as they invariably will!) your plan will help come up with an alternative solution.

2. Plan to throw out your plan! Curveballs come in many shapes and sizes. Be ready for them and if you're going to freak out, don't ever let your crew see it. You must be the calm at the center of the storm.

3. Respect everyone on your crew. Learn their names, show your appreciation for their hard work. If someone screws up, let their boss or the 1st A.D. deal with it because you have way too many other things to worry about. If it's your 1st A.D. or another dept. head who screws up, then take them away from the set - don't berate or yell at them in front of everyone.

4. As much as all of the above is true, don't try to be best friends with all the crew. They need to know that you're still the boss. When the light is fading and the pressure is on, you don't want those friendships to get in the way of getting the shot.

5. Understand that actors have a job unique to anyone else on set. They're putting their emotions out there and you are their only audience. This makes them vulnerable or even volatile at times. Respect the special bond that only a director can have with their actors and protect it with your life. Nobody should be talking to them about their dramatic choices etc. except you and it's crucial that you are the lone voice for them.

6. Have fun! Filmmaking is hard and stressful at times. Remember that you will only ever have one FIRST film, so try to enjoy the ride. You will make mistakes. You will almost certainly kick yourself over things you missed when you get in the edit room. Don't worry about it, you'll be better when you make your 2nd film.

September 15, 2014 at 7:08PM

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Neil Every
Writer/Director/Story Consultant
203

That is awesome breakdown Neil :) ---even I had missed out some mentally, haha

Normen Arule

September 27, 2014 at 12:01PM

Make sure you get good sound, a minute of room tone and never forget to say please and thank you.

September 16, 2014 at 9:15AM

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Thanks for all of the feedback everyone!

September 17, 2014 at 6:40PM

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Crystal McGhee
Director/Writer/Producer/Actor
213

Also, be a professional in your demeanor. These are the things I remind myself of before the shoots:

- do not lecture the DP about cameras - they know more;

- do not lecture artists about what looks better on screen - there are more successful directors who think the opposite is true;

- every time you are chatting you are probably making an ass out of yourself - talk only when needed;

- always lend a hand to the grip/gaffer/DP - hard to explain, you'll understand why only if you spend time on a set as a grip/gaffer/dp.

- always be the first one to arrive on the set - once you start being late 15min the rest of cast and crew will be late by an hour.

Good luck!

September 19, 2014 at 1:50PM

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Alex Zakrividoroga
Director
3829

You should not lend a hand to G&E unless you are heavily under resourced and are working with a skeleton crew. If you do have resourced departments, its bad form. A director should never have to touch equipment, if they do they department is slacking.

Indie Guy

September 19, 2014 at 6:54PM

Be respectfully aggressive, and give clear and concise directions. If you gave a direction and you know if your heart that it wasn't easy to understand, address it then and there. Do not let anyone walk away without them knowing exactly what they are supposed to do. Or if you don't know exactly what you want say give me 5 minutes to make a decision or tell the crew member to make the choice themselves. Nonetheless, once a direction is given it needs to be clear for everyone involved

As long as your crew is paid and fed, feel free to ask a lot of them. Get good results and ask for even more. You're the coach and players need to be motivated and pushed if your going to create something victorious. As long as the end product looks fantastic crew members appreciate your high expectations and will bend over backwards for you on the next one. Everybody just wants to be part of good work.

September 19, 2014 at 7:06PM

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Indie Guy
1312

Plan and plan, definitely storyboards it is after all a visual medium (Don't even have to draw them you could take photos or the like) it acts as a starting point and a backup if improvisation goes wrong because if you plan correctly then you'll know at the very least you just have to tick off your storyboard panels and you have a film.

Get a good producer and a good AD, you don't want to be concerned with the production details when you are on set trying to craft the piece creatively. They become your allies, your reminders, your solutions and your firewall to the chaos around you.

Make a short 1-5 minute piece before hand, even on your phone, something you'll never have to show the world. Just so you can understand how you take something you shot on set and cut it together in the editing room. The pain that goes with understanding you needed an insert shot to cover yourself here, or how two shots cut together there, or how important sound is to the editing process of a good film; is something you should learn on a disposable piece.

All the advice above is pretty much covers the rest.

October 6, 2014 at 10:09AM

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Luke Blackett
Director/Writer/Producer
74

I liked the advise offered. While it is probably not true, I think the audience will be more forgiving of a webisode, so surprising them by making it better then expected will be good. Definitely preplan all you can and there are plenty of places online to find bits and pieces you worry about doing right! remember to post a link to it when done. It sounds like a fun project, enjoy!

August 16, 2015 at 9:00AM, Edited August 16, 9:00AM

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Searean Moon
Director/Writer/Producer
216

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