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Director's knowledge


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#1 C Kenneybrew

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Posted 04 July 2007 - 06:06 PM

As a director is it important to know everything that is going on on the set. And also to go to film school and learn about lighting, cameras, writing, etc?
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 July 2007 - 07:10 PM

As a director is it important to know everything that is going on on the set. And also to go to film school and learn about lighting, cameras, writing, etc?


You need to learn the art of directing, of visual storytelling using cinematic tools and techniques, but there are different ways of learning, film school only being one of them. Ultimately, even in film school, you find that you have to learn independently of what the courses are teaching you. You have to learn to teach yourself.

If you don't know everything there is about making a movie, then you'll probably want to hire people who know their individual jobs on the set. How much you need to know about the technical arts beyond directing just depends on how big your shoot is and how much do you want to control those areas personally. If you are going to be doing your own sound recording, for example, then you should learn how to do it. If you are going to hire someone to do it, you can just learn the principles, and get to know the equipment generally but not become an expert at it.
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#3 Nicholas Jenkins

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Posted 04 July 2007 - 07:32 PM

You need to learn the art of directing, of visual storytelling using cinematic tools and techniques, but there are different ways of learning, film school only being one of them. Ultimately, even in film school, you find that you have to learn independently of what the courses are teaching you. You have to learn to teach yourself.

If you don't know everything there is about making a movie, then you'll probably want to hire people who know their individual jobs on the set. How much you need to know about the technical arts beyond directing just depends on how big your shoot is and how much do you want to control those areas personally. If you are going to be doing your own sound recording, for example, then you should learn how to do it. If you are going to hire someone to do it, you can just learn the principles, and get to know the equipment generally but not become an expert at it.


I concur with pretty much everything here. It's nice to know the principles of most of the stuff so you know what questions to ask and know how much pressure each person is under to perform. Usually I've seen things go bad on a set (usually with the poor sound guy) when a director doesn't understand the process so just demands things be done at a pace that isn't possible, or forgets that each part of the team in integral to the making of said movie.

I try to have a general understanding of what's going on so I can be sure that I'm getting what I want. If I have a DP assuring me that the framing will work, but it's not the exact frame I want, then I can pull him aside and explain the shot, knowing how the camera needs to be set up. It's usually never the fault of the DP or camera man, rather the director's mistake in not explaining something very well. But the more you know, the more you can at least look at things and know if you're getting what you need.
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#4 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 05 July 2007 - 06:24 AM

Sometimes it can be a problem if the director wants to do everything themselves (as against knowing the process). In a way it becomes limiting because they only know the way they've gone things in the past and they're not moving on.

The last short film I directed someone else was DP and it was different experience to the previous film on which (for budget reasons) I was also DP. One thing about not doing camera is that you have an overview, although I did miss the connection from directly looking though the camera viewfinder rather than a video assist monitor. The DP did offer to let me operate, but I thought it would be interesting to let them do it and in the end the only shot I operated on was a very quick Steadicam job.

It's good to know the basics - how everyone is working together, but don't get bogged down in the detail. Learning to write is worthwhile for story telling and learning to communicate your vision.
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#5 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 06 July 2007 - 02:27 AM

A follower came to Mohammad and asked "Master, can you truly move the mountain?" to which Mohammad replied :"Yes I can." then the follower said "Well then you should move the mountain so that all will believe," to which Muhammad said" When one truly knows one can move the mountain, there is no need to move it." I don't know if this actually came from the Koran but an acting teacher said that once to me and it's become my philosophy on directing. I personally believe a director should be able to do every job there is to do on a film on set and off set. This it gives him confidence. This way he can see potential problems before they happen, he knows what can and can't be done and he knows when someone it telling him the truth, when they are bullsh*tting him and can also talk to the people under him intelligently and with technical comprehension of their problems so as to be able to offer solutions when the need arises. I also believe this gives him an edge in hiring good people to begin with. However I also STRONGLY believe a director should NOT kibitz, it shows a lack of trust and confidence in your crew and this will annoy, demoralize and frustrate them causing delays and tension during production. Hire the best people you can, be crystal clear and decisive with them as to what you want, motivate them and LET THEM DO THEIR JOBS!!! The question is kinda academic anyway because if you get to do enough films, you're gonna pick up an idea of how to do everyone's job anyway;)

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 06 July 2007 - 02:30 AM.

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#6 Hal Smith

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Posted 07 July 2007 - 10:53 AM

Doug Hart told me that contrary to his public persona as a klutz, Woody Allen is extremely knowledgeable about film-making down to knowing what specific lenses look like, etc. He also rehearses his casts on set with no film gear, just A-team cast, himself, Cinematographer, and Script Super. Only after the cast is ready does he bring in department heads to place spikes, plan rigging, etc. As a result of his working method, when it comes time to actually shoot, everything goes very quickly and with very few mishaps. An ounce of preparation is worth a ton of crew time?
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#7 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 08 July 2007 - 01:16 AM

One other thing I would note as an essential to a director's education, is most great directors, Scorsese , Tarantino , Spielberg, Bogdanovich, just to name a few, ALL are film historians. These is almost a requirement. If is vital to know and understand what came before you in order to build upon it and make it your own. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel, just build a better jitney! B)
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#8 Max Jacoby

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Posted 08 July 2007 - 01:07 PM

I feel being too much of a cinephile can be a drawback. It leads directors like Tarantino to want to recreate the films of their youth, completely forgetting that these films never were very good to begin with.
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#9 Federico Casal

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Posted 12 July 2007 - 12:27 AM

As a director is it important to know everything that is going on on the set. And also to go to film school and learn about lighting, cameras, writing, etc?



Well, if you are a perfectionist you would sure want to have everything in mind to get the exact thing you want to be portrayed. I think that if you really love your project, you should get to know what everyone does, maybe like David says, not became an expert at it, but certainly have a modest idea. As far as photography I think you should know a lot because what essentially matters in movies is the frame composition, and although you have your cinematographer and DP, you should be very concerned on what are you capturing.

Stanley Kubrick was very well known because of the perfectionism on his movies, and well, you know how his work is... I don't think you should be perfectionist but I just would advice you to be all knowledgeable so you can use that knoledge to maybe go beyond, and make a good film. But maybe that's not your objective.

This is my thought! Good luck!
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#10 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 12 July 2007 - 01:29 AM

I feel being too much of a cinephile can be a drawback. It leads directors like Tarantino to want to recreate the films of their youth, completely forgetting that these films never were very good to begin with.


Tarantino seem to be a director you either love or hate, there doesn't seem to be much of a middle ground with his work. I happen to love his films and think he's take what made some arguable terrible movies interesting and built on those interesting element to create his own artistic statement PLUS a lot of what influenced him wasn't all that bad, Shaft, Fist Full of Dollars, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Enter the Dragon, these and several others like them were great films and actually have influenced a LOT of directors not just Quinton. B)
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