Monday, 4 April 2016

4 Lessons I’ve Learned as a Director

Being on set with Swagger has always been a refreshing learning experience. Since I joined the team, I started going to shoots to help in various areas, to both broaden my production experience and get more familiar with the Swagger way. Now I have the opportunity to step on set while walking in the director’s shoes, and so far it’s been thrilling!

But what exactly is the director’s role? What is it like to walk in his/her shoes? We think of a director as the one who runs the set, who controls the technical and creative aspects of a project, guides the cast and crew and dictates final decisions to accomplish his/her vision. This sounds like bread and butter, but I believe it is extremely challenging yet rewarding, and requires much more than just the willingness to “run the show”. Additionally, like the majority of creative jobs in this industry, directing calls for the perfect balance between skills, knowledge, experience, and most importantly, the ability to work as a team.

So, even though I consider myself a “director in training” I would like to share with you 4 things that I deem key if you are the one calling, “action!”:

1. Come prepared.

In case you missed my last blog post, I will reiterate: I am a firm pre-production believer, and will always think of it as the most important phase of a project. I’ve learned that as a director, it is crucial to take time during this stage to evaluate the script, develop a creative vision and create a thorough shot list or storyboard to ensure we go to production with a game-plan that will allow us to fulfill that vision.

This encompasses not only working with the production team to make sure the crew, cast, equipment and locations align with that concept, but to also think about all the other creative elements that will support the narrative. What’s the story and how do we want to tell it? How many cameras and what kind of cameras do we want to use? What angles and movements will carry the story the way we are envisioning it? What about the aesthetics, the style, and the mood of the project? What kind of shots will make the visuals more interesting?...

The number of questions can be endless, but the main thing to keep in mind is that as directors we should step on set prepared to guide the team in order to achieve that big dream we have in mind- our creative goal.

2. Listen to your crew.

I’ve already mentioned the word “team” and “crew” a couple of times here, and it’s not a coincidence. I’ve realized that a director’s responsibility lies in the ability to take the wheel as well as the ability to trust and listen to the passengers.

We have an amazing production team here at Swagger, and we have the opportunity to work with different talented vendors and contractors, who truly understand the way we tell stories. I cannot stress enough how valuable it is for me to know when to listen to my crew, and when to ask for their opinion or help (from a camera angle suggestion to a different creative approach). It’s been crucial to understand how this strengthens and benefits my vision and the overall production process.

3. Follow your instincts.

Now, there are times when I’m faced with tough decision calls or dilemmas on set, and times when the crew makes suggestions on how to proceed. This is where I recommend following your gut. Hear perspectives and evaluate, and if your intuition is telling you to agree with your team, go for it. If not, follow your instinct and make the call, even if it’s not a popular one.

Being prepared, knowing the project and the client well, along with understanding how to accomplish your plan will boost the confidence needed to make these tough decisions. Experience plays a big role here as well.

4. Focus on the solution, not the problem.

We all know things can happen. A member of the cast can cancel at the very last minute, someone from the crew can forget to bring a much-needed piece of equipment, or the noise at the location can be simply unbearable. No matter how much we plan or how well prepared we are, life on set can be pretty unpredictable. And as directors, it’s our job not to “lose our cool”.

I’ve learned that focusing blindly on the issue at hand can automatically create tension and make everybody around us uncomfortable and uneasy. Think about it as a fire hazard. Is it wise to start causing panic around the fact that there will be a fire or is it better to be patient, and direct all our energy towards finding an exit? Well, that was an easy one.

That’s the key. As soon as an issue arises, I recommend taking a step back for a second, breathing, and thinking about solutions and different options. This would be a great moment to communicate with the crew, evaluate suggestions and make the best call.

See how everything tied up right there?

So tell us, what else do you think directors should keep in mind on set? Have you faced any challenges while directing? If so, what lessons have you learned? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below or tweet @Swagger_Media! And if you need help with your production projects, we are more than happy to assist you! Visit our website or give us a call at 832-831-7592.

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