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About TV Commercial Directing ruin your sense?


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#1 Ethan Lyu

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Posted 26 December 2008 - 03:18 AM

Hello all,

Although it might be a premature thought, do you think directing TV commercials will
influence your sense of film directing, in terms of visuals?
ie, I look at some film directed by ex-commercial directors and I can tell they used to
do commercials just by looking at it. Usually composition is very symmetric or sometimes
the movie feels like a 90 min. long Canon Digital camera TV commercial.

Not to pick on anyone but like the director who did "The Cell", Mr. Tarsem Singh who
I think has a stunning visual style, looks like he can only make those type of films.
Perhaps it is his choice.

My hunch is, music video directing, depending on content, resembles more w/
film directing.

What I'm asking is, although commercial directing might be a more stable career,
I won't do it for long term if it will influence my sense story telling in a negative way
since I do not wish to direct a movie in TV commercial visuals.

Any thoughts will be appreciated,

thank you
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#2 Walter Graff

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Posted 26 December 2008 - 03:35 PM

At this point do what you love. No one picks the direction they end up, rather they strive for a direction and see where they land. Sidney Lumet was a TV director before becoming a film director. Didn't hurt him. Every recent movie by a former music video director looks like a 90 minute music video to me. You could say that about any genre and any background. Some break free of what they know and find new direction, most don't. If you can make a carer in this business and support yourself for 40 years you've done more than good rgardless of what you do.
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#3 K Borowski

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Posted 26 December 2008 - 03:43 PM

So are you saying that TV Commercial Directors are "programmed" if they work in TV too long?

I know of a guy that started out in TV whose movies don't look like 90 minute commercials. His name is Steve, Steven Spielburg.

I think anyone who is someone in this industry has the innate ability to light a scenic vista or a close-up shot in a different way than he would light a diamond.
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#4 Walter Graff

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Posted 26 December 2008 - 06:32 PM

" Every recent movie by a former music video director looks like a 90 minute music video to me. You could say that about any genre and any background."

That is what I said. It was referring to music video directors. Somehow someone started to make it sound like I said TV directors. I never said that. But what do you expect. Music videos and national commercials are about style over substance. As a result the training is about style. Give them something to do and they do what they know. Take these guys and let them make a movie and its like making a movie without a script. They are more concerned with framing, color, sets, style and camera movement. Wouldn't expect anything else. I am an expert at dealing with non professional talent. That is from my years directing non scripted syndicated television where I worked with some 14,000 non professional talent. That has translated well for me in other genres just as not having the experience hasn't worked well for others.

As for the comparison, it really isn't fair. TV directors of the late 60s and 70s had a completely different atmosphere and animal to work with than today. Back than it was more like film making than TV making. Many TV directors then could and did migrate to film. Today's directors couldn't make the transition. TV has become a different animal. I'm good friends with five of the biggest TV directors in the business and they know as much about film making as I know about fitting a bra. Then it was still the convergence of old school film style with the newer medium of TV so easier to transcend. Basically film guys came over to TV so the styles were more alike earlier on than different. Over the years they drifted apart.

And I'll say it again, do what you can and find what works. 90% of people find that what they want to do and what they end up doing are two different things. Or said another way, the availability of being a director and the dream of being one are often limited due to availability. BTW Spielberg was a writer who found an in directing bad made-for-TV movies like 'Duel'. Once he found something that worked for him he did well with it. You'll find as you get older that life is 90% luck and 10% what you know. Doesn't hurt to know things, but who you know is far more important and that is part of the luck.
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#5 K Borowski

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Posted 26 December 2008 - 06:53 PM

As for the comparison, it really isn't fair. TV directors of the late 60s and 70s had a completely different atmosphere and animal to work with than today. Back than it was more like film making than TV making. Many TV directors then could and did migrate to film. Today's directors couldn't make the transition. TV has become a different animal. I'm good friends with five of the biggest TV directors in the business and they know as much about film making as I know about fitting a bra. Then it was still the convergence of old school film style with the newer medium of TV so easier to transcend. Basically film guys came over to TV so the styles were more alike earlier on than different. Over the years they drifted apart.


Good point about Spielburg working on TV movies as opposed to series.

Besides the obviously lower budgets, tighter deadlines, and greater volume required, how else does television differ from feature film-making as far as directing goes? Do this. Say that. You missed your line. Let's move the camera here. The content, cinematography, and story might not be as fresh, but what else makes it so different than feature filmmaking?
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#6 Walter Graff

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Posted 26 December 2008 - 07:13 PM

Good point about Spielburg working on TV movies as opposed to series.

Besides the obviously lower budgets, tighter deadlines, and greater volume required, how else does television differ from feature film-making as far as directing goes? Do this. Say that. You missed your line. Let's move the camera here. The content, cinematography, and story might not be as fresh, but what else makes it so different than feature filmmaking?



It would take me too long to explain. You'd have to be on as many sets as I have to know. It's just about the way it's done differently. Especially with the advent of video and now they roll everything. Poor editors.
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#7 K Borowski

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Posted 26 December 2008 - 07:19 PM

It would take me too long to explain. You'd have to be on as many sets as I have to know. It's just about the way it's done differently. Especially with the advent of video and now they roll everything. Poor editors.


Are you being facetious with your whole post or just your last sentence?

I've never been on a TV shoot, but from what behind-the-scenes footage I've seen, it seems like there is more of a "house style" and very little independent creativity, and a much quicker pace (i.e. get the line right, move on).

Other than that, I don't really notice a difference. They still shoot film (or tape or whatever), shoot slates, call cut and action, and hang lights.

They have dollies and grips and unions and lunch breaks, no?
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#8 Walter Graff

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Posted 26 December 2008 - 07:36 PM

Are you being facetious with your whole post or just your last sentence?

I've never been on a TV shoot, but from what behind-the-scenes footage I've seen, it seems like there is more of a "house style" and very little independent creativity, and a much quicker pace (i.e. get the line right, move on).

Other than that, I don't really notice a difference. They still shoot film (or tape or whatever), shoot slates, call cut and action, and hang lights.

They have dollies and grips and unions and lunch breaks, no?


Karl I'm referring to the director perspective which is what this topic is about. Some shows are quite good. Many really BAD!!! I can remember one for Disney (a well known comedy sitcom). They wasted two of three shooting days. Seriously. Slow, absolutely ridiculous working pace and ethic. And this show had a $7 million budget. If Disney ever looked at how they shot it, they would have pulled it just on principle. Most shows like this shoot most stuff minus audience then have a day they save the best scenes for and do it live to get the laughs then add them to the rest of the show. This show was always so far behind they had to use the audience days to do half of what should have been done days earlier. The audience was in pain. They used to extend craft services to the audience to make htem stay.
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#9 Ethan Lyu

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Posted 27 December 2008 - 01:31 AM

Thank you very much for your insight and advice.

I should have been more clear about my wording.
I meant mainly TV commercials (and music videos)
and never meant movies-made-for TV. Sorry for confusion.

I agree and understand that one should 'take the job you can get'
unless you are a at a level to choose.

thanks again,
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