Every film director is different. Especially when it concerns style, experience, execution, preferences and so on. After directing my own short film, these are a few things that helped my process.
1 Block your scenes through the viewfinder
The simple way to define blocking is, the movements of characters in relation to the movement of the camera (the audience’s point of view). Of course, there are more than a few ways to block a scene. Depending on the director, a few lines of action and dialogue in a script could translate on screen as a comedy, drama, romantic comedy or a suspense scene. By this fact, blocking also involves the performance and not just the movement. Now for the tip: always block your scenes through the viewfinder when possible. (Obviously if you’re shooting on a DSLR you’d have to turn the camera off to view your shot through the viewfinder). Doing this forces you to think more consciously about the 3 dimensional space you’re dealing with as well as gauging the distance between the camera and the performer. Whereas blocking using the flat, two dimensional monitor doesn’t give you an accurate idea of spacing.
2 Use prime lenses
Why? For starters they’re sharper, more affordable, more portable (all relative by the way). But using lenses with a fixed focal length allows you to think more actively about how you shoot a scene. Because there’s no quick and easy way to get a closeup on an actor or to fit more in the frame, you’re forced to physically move the camera, which in turn affects the process of the actor, for better or worse. But overall it does let you think more creatively about getting a shot as opposed to just zooming in or out.
3 Know every process
Terry Gilliam once told Quentin Tarantino that <paraphrased; as a director, it’s not your job to know how to operate a camera, or move lights around to get a certain effect, or how to record sound or any of that. As a director, your job is to have a vision. And then it’s your job to be able to articulate that vision to the talented people around you who can use their skill to help you achieve that vision.” For me, this is a more than perfect description of what a film director is. BUT, put plainly, you do give yourself a huge advantage when you have a working -not perfect- knowledge of what each process in filmmaking entails. You don’t need to be a DP for 3 years to know what a DP does but it’s good to be an instant expert on all processes so that 1) you know when your crew is lying to you that something can’t be done (lol) and 2) in the case of many independent filmmakers getting started, you’ll need to teach your crew how to do their jobs effectively, so the more you know the better.
4 Get to know who you’re working with
This could easily be overlooked but I think it’s highly important that you actually take time to find out what kind of personality types you’ll be spending your time with on a particular project. If they’re unlikeable, or worse yet, not knowledgeable enough then what could be a simple, fun project could end up dragging on and becoming a gloom. On the other hand, persons who are just as passionate and on a similar wavelength can be more fun and make you a better filmmaker overall.
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