I wanted to be a film director since I was around 12 but I didn’t really know what skills and experience I need for it. I just wanted to be the boss and make movies/videos :).
However, until you try it yourself, you will never know if you’re ready to become one. I sure wasn’t ready yet when I started filming videos.
But after 5 years in the video making business, I might share with you some tips/rules to describe you how it really works.
- BE ONE STEP AHEAD
That means before everyone on the set. You have to know every inch of the screenplay, you have to know the camera equipment, how you want to light the scene, how you want to sound it. You can say ‘Why do I have a director of photography if I have to decide everything?’ — the answer is — because you’re the DIRECTOR. You’re simply responsible for everything. Imagine Quentin Tarantino not to know what lens he wants to use for any of his scenes.
Be jack of all trades. That includes how you want your actors to act in every scene. It seems obvious right? BUT when you’re on the set and you have limited time [deadlines, schedules] and EVERYBODY is shooting questions at you, then you better have answers, which leads us to number 2.
- HAVE ANSWER FOR EVERYTHING
– even if you might not be completely sure. Why? There’s no shame in admiting that you don’t know something, but there are different ways of doing it. Once you admit in a style of ‘I don’t know’, people loose confidence in what you’re doing. It’s a suicide on the set. Also when you have clients present and they can doubt all their money they put in it. You have to say ‘Let me think about it’ and then for example ask someone for their opinion, or just make a decision and stick with it, but you have to do it quickly. If it turns out to be a bad one, then correct it later but don’t say ‘It wasn’t a good idea’ but say instead for example ‘It doesn’t fit the scene, let’s try something different.’ People have to have 100% confidence in you, otherwise they will loose faith in the project.
- SHOW ACTORS HOW YOU WANT IT TO BE DONE
Don’t be afraid to act on the set and go crazy a little. Actors know screenplay but it doesn’t have to be clear enough to them, how they should approach the scene. They will ask YOU, not the producer, not the director of photography, they will ask you and sometimes it’s not enough to explain to them. You have to show them. Literally go out there and act. It can also loosen up the atmosphere, you have no idea how nervous they are and if they see you like this, it can get the stress off them.
- MAKE PEOPLE LAUGH
When you’re on tight deadline and under pressure, it can be really hard not be an ass. Don’t act like you’re Steve Jobs, because you’re not. Be kind to people, little bossy, but respectful. Make them laugh but still remind them that it’s a serious business here with deadlines. But don’t make them think that they can’t even laugh during their break because it would be unprofessional. Put up a good show, good atmosphere on the set is the key ingredient for success.
- LISTEN TO PEOPLE — SOMETIMES
Be open to ideas during pre-production. During screenwriting, creating shooting schedule, prop list etc. But while being on the set, if you let everyone to say their opinion on every scene, you will never get anything done. And that’s when we come back to the point number 1 — be one step ahead. Have everything thought through in advance, so you don’t have to think about on the set.