View Full Version : What is Directing?

01-05-2005, 06:43 PM
What is Directing?

Help me out please, I need some input, opinions , etc....

It seems like there are many ways of seeing what this job entails, which is good, because from what I can see there isn't only one right way to do it. In the end we have endless approaches that bring freshness to the craft of storytelling. I really enjoy seeing how we can interpret the same material and come up with a huge variety of ways to tell a story.

Some directors focus on the actors and leave camera stuff to others. Some like to get on the camera and shoot themselves....it seems like there are many ways.

Do you, the director, setup the shots or does your DP?
Do you storyboard? how much?
Do you wing it much?

What's directing?

01-06-2005, 06:33 AM
Directing to me, is a methodical sequence of mistakes between an idea's inception and the first frame filling the screen.


Think about it.

01-06-2005, 09:13 AM
Not bad.....I'll have to ponder this, how about, complete compromise of ideals, because reality actually came into the equation. Or in other words, the differnce between theory & practice.

It reminds me of, "Feedback Control Systems Theory." A missle is launched at a target, it immediately goes a little off course, what does it do? it self corrects incrementally, ....and so it goes..... correction...... off target..... correction, etc....

Interesting thought! Maybe this is how we make movies. Afterall, we do this is most every other aspect of our lives.

I think my question is a little too intimidating. It seems difficult to move from camera to directing.

01-08-2005, 04:30 PM
I direct, produce and shoot. Friend of mine holds the boom. When I will have more cash I will share the responsibiliets. Now I go with what I want. Just finshed first feature.

01-08-2005, 05:20 PM
Last night I saw an old rerun of a Sidney Pollack series on an educational channel in which he & other directors answer these questions about directing, what is it, how do you go about it.

The question takes an enormous amount of effort to answer because it's so big. Billy Wilder said something to the effect: Directing is directing the attention of the audience to what's important according to what the storyteller feels is important in the story. You take their head and force them to look at what you want them to look at. This then requires giving orders so that the art direction can comform as well as the musical score, the camera work, the acting,.... so that in the end there is hopefully an end product that somewhat resembles the auteur's vsion.

Sounds like an answer to me. ;)

01-10-2005, 10:33 AM
it's one of those questions that means a different thing to different people...with answers that mean different things to different people. It's a complex question inside a simple question...like

What is living?

What is God?

What is Art?

What is Canada?

I think what is more important to understand is that in a very real way, directing does not matter. The practice, the method, the steps, the theory...in the end, it is all completely inconsequential because you're left with a product that is ALWAYS larger and more important then the process used to result at that product.

A painter may employ any variety of mediums, brushes of synthetic and natural composition, and any variety of secondary aids...what matters it not how a painting is accomplished, it is how the painting looks on your wall.

The only parts of a film that matter are the idea and the print, thus the only thing a director can possibly do is err and correct in the pursuit of printing that idea. I think that’s the same for any art, a disparity between the ethereal creation and the physical result…we struggle to paint the picture in our heads, to write the story in our minds, to photograph the scene our eyes present, to play the melody our ears recreate, but we always fail in capturing the full detail.

Filmmaking, like any art, is a struggle to make an idea a reality, and the process or act of directing is nothing more then a series of mistakes and corrections along the path of approximating that idea.

01-10-2005, 11:22 AM
The unexamined life is not worth living, Socrates, is believed to have said. How we get to the finish line may not be what what everyone values, but life & film making is a process & some processes are simply easier and far more enjoyable then others. I choose to explore, learn and find better ways of getting that idea to the screen.

We know some artists have difficulty getting the brush to canvas. They suffer in torment beforehand while others swiftly cover it with ease & expressive joy and still others don't think but act and discover later of their efforts.

Is directing a way for finding what you think the story is about, in other words, one discovers as they engage in the assembly process of photography the real message they want to convey? Some like Hitchcock would storyboard the film so photography was more of an act of recording than creating.

I think it's worthy to reflect and ask about the nature of how one comes to a point of view and helps bring a creation using the talents and resources of a vast army.

Jim Brennan
01-10-2005, 12:10 PM
But Hitchcock, like the Coens, merely found and applied his creativity further up the pipeline. *Instead of deciding which lens to use, or what angle to cover on the set, he previewed the movie in his head first. *

Mozart is said to merely have taken down the notes that were already in his head. *His hand transcribed what his brain already figured out.

I realize you are not questioning the validity of that particular process. I believe it is different, although no better or worse. I think it is just an example of an individual learning what specific process works best for them.

01-10-2005, 01:43 PM
Jim I agree Hitch & others find theirs farther up the stream before cameras start rolling. I try to take the advice of Mamet, Hitchcock & others: we have plenty of time to plan and figure the movie in our head without wasting time, effort & money on a set trying to figure it out, take after take until were all crazy. This makes sense especially when using free labor for indie shoots. the problem is, it takes a lot of work to figure it all out in your head...and then we're never sure of we're there. I guess only lots of experience can deliver that type of surety.

I saw some of Mozart's 1st & only drafts in the British Museum...wait he didn't make drafts...they were full blown compositions....and yes, they were chicken scratches with no crossing out, going back, etc... he was obviously writing as fast as he could. It was all there sitting in his head!....that is freak level genius.

Jim Brennan
01-10-2005, 09:37 PM
At the same time (since most of us are not geniuses) you should leave some room for happy accidents. As much as I like to plan, I don't want that to work against me; I don't want to be so rigid as to miss an opportunity...."I don't care that DeNiro saw us shooting and wants to be in the picture, He's not on my shot list"

01-10-2005, 11:21 PM
Hi Guys,

My defination of directing is the craft/art of visual storytelling. A director is more like a kid trying to tell a story with all emotions and with music he creates with his mouth, trying to capture the attention of audience and trying to show them what he thinks is the story all about as per his own vision. Lenses and camera comes after. The best director would be able to tell the story with the music before even it is shot and can see it playing in front of his own eyes while he is performing the art.

just my 2 cents


01-11-2005, 04:00 AM
"I don't care that DeNiro saw us shooting and wants to be in the picture, He's not on my shot list"

Okay...I GET it....I should have let him be in the movie, my mistake.

01-12-2005, 07:27 AM
Actually, some very important detail-level stuff from the original post got missed that I'm very curious about myself.

What is the relationship between the Director and the DP? Who decides what camera angles to use? Who decides what lighting to use?

I see it as the Director telling (either via Storyboards beforehand, or on-the-fly after the previous take) the DP "Okay, next shot is a C/U of Fred, low angle, from over here and looking THAT way" and the DP setting up the camera and lights to make that happen and look best.

Is this reasonably accurate to real life?

Jim Brennan
01-12-2005, 07:54 AM
I'm speculating, since I've never worked on a pro shoot. *I always do both jobs on my films. *Most of the books I read about the subject state that it really varies from picture to picture. *Ultimately the Director is the boss, however. *Some just give the DP a general idea of what they are going for and the DP tells them the best options to get it. *Some directors already know how to get what they want. *Some first-time directors might (if they are smart) let the DP do most of the set-ups, or at least make a lot of suggestions. *There are a lot of different possibilities. *

01-12-2005, 10:09 AM
It's like being in a band. When writing a song, does the guitar player dictate the beat to the drummer, note for note? Does he demand a tempo? Or does he just play and allow the drummer to jump in however he likes?

It all depends on the song and the musicians involved. That’s one of the main reasons why I have trouble perusing in a discussion of this nature...there are no rules, there is no universal truth and everyone's opinion is essentially equally true and false depending on the parallax of the viewer.

Here's what I think about directing as it pertains to shots, lighting, cameras, angles, etc.

If cameras did not exist, would there still be directors?


If a director can have purpose without cameras existing, then what's the primary focus of a director?

01-12-2005, 06:38 PM
Most directors have very strong opinions about how to direct, that's part of what it takes to be a director otherwise everyone will be part of the fray.

Some directors stay with acting while others are very photographically inclined, most are in between from what I've been exposed to.

As for me, I tend to be very precise in what I want for key parts of the script and less precise & open on other areas. Therefore I have clear direction about what I want, how to get it and why it's the way it is. These reflect my sensibilites of what I believe is the most important parts of the story to convey and in what manner these parts need to be communicated. Other areas...I'm more open to creative input.

Using the music metaphor, if I want the drummer to play a certain beat, I work with the guy until they get the right feel for it, otherwise the song I wrote just doesn't sound right, I know I've been playing for 35 years, and it matters.

Film is the same story for me: the acting, camera placement & movement, lighting, set design, mes-en-scene, need to conform to my artistic vision. Once the feel of the vision is understood then those artists: camera, actors, sets, etc... can bring their talents to bear & take it further. I have to lead them to this defined point so they too can can help build the production.

01-13-2005, 07:17 AM
...and finally we've reached the blurry line that defines the difference between a "director" and a "filmmaker".

Jim Brennan
01-13-2005, 08:13 PM
Oh boy. Is there ever a difference.

01-13-2005, 10:53 PM
And what is that? since these terms are so loosely used.

01-14-2005, 05:26 AM
Filmmaker, person who makes films.

Director, person who directs.

See the difference?

This discussion is cyclical and ultimately pointless (I say this because I doubt there is anything to be learned or discovered in persuing it). We're better off discussing who's religion is better or why your politician stinks.

(not intending any offense to anyone that's interested, I just don't see where this is going)

01-14-2005, 08:10 AM
If it's pointless why bring it up?in the 1st place...hmmm...interesting

the other day I found an interesting book about a significant director. In the book the director said he and other top directors often talk about what directing is, how to do it, etc... they share ideas, appoaches and experiences, stories and help one another. What is really enlightening is how open they are about learning more and finding out about the craft. It's interesting how these old pros are still grappling with these basic questions and enjoying the process of discovery. I think they must be on to something.

Jim Brennan
01-14-2005, 09:54 AM
To me the difference is this: A filmmaker is the person who takes an idea and brings it to fruition. At some point, he probably directs the film as well. A director is a person who takes care of one step in the process. I guess I am looking at this from the indie mentality.

I don't think it's pointless to discuss what we think a director is, or what their responsibilities are, but it is an academic argument for the most part.

01-14-2005, 03:38 PM
The question is what is directing, which basically asks one about their process for getting there. We all have some sort of ideas for how & why we approach it the way we do. If we don't then I would think an individual either operates on gut instinct ( not Bad) or they....well, they might some day :)

All actions have a philosophy behind them. Academic in my mind simply means we acknowledge that which is before us and try to understand it. By doing so we become aware and at some point we wake up.

Jim Brennan
01-14-2005, 04:18 PM
I'm not trying to pick nits, but the question as you asked it in the title of the thread seems somewhat philosophical (My POV). If you had asked "How do you approach directing?" or "share what your experiences have been", Or "what do you see as the director's responsibilities?" I think you might have gotten more practical answers.

For me, simply put, the director is the guy who takes the script, cast, crew and locations, and gets what is on the page on the screen. He's the key guy between pre-production, and post. Whatever that takes in a particular production. But ultimately, although you can paint the picture in rather broad strokes, the specifics will vary from film to film and director to director.

01-14-2005, 06:09 PM
Jim, good point about the question. I guess I like to understand the thinking behind the action more than the action itself so I ask philosphical questions. Anyways, I'm find myself shocked sometimes when i talk to other directors and see how they approach the work. I find we have radically different ways. Then I tend to ask myself, hey maybe they know something that is even better than I. Once I know what they do I can get a sense of their approach, but when I find out why they approach it the way they do, it frees me to then see it through their eyes. Sometimes that is helpful, but most of the time it's really fun & exciting to see the familiar in a new light.

01-15-2005, 03:10 PM
I would say the name says it all. Directing the actors or subjects in the direction you want to take the film.

02-03-2005, 01:22 PM
are there directors who can visualize from start to finish an entire feature film? who has that kind of concentration and precision and strength of visualization skills? spielberg?

02-03-2005, 02:22 PM
are there directors who can visualize from start to finish an entire feature film? *who has that kind of concentration and precision and strength of visualization skills? *spielberg?

Robert Rodriguez can do it. That's one reason why his films are shot so quickly and way under budget. Before shooting El Mariachi, his first feature, he'd close his eyes, play the entire film in his mind and use a stopwatch to time himself. It would always be just over 80 minutes. His script was only 45 pages long, but he felt it would be long enough based on his previsualization, and he was right.

02-03-2005, 10:02 PM
If it's pointless why bring it up?in the 1st place...hmmm...interesting

the other day I found an interesting book about a significant director. In the book the director said he and other top directors often talk about what directing is, how to do it, etc... they share ideas, appoaches and experiences, stories and help one another. What is really enlightening is how open they are about learning more and finding out about the craft. It's interesting how these old pros are still grappling with these basic questions and enjoying the process of discovery. I think they must be on to something.

what book was that?

02-03-2005, 10:17 PM
There are a series of interview books with top directors titled, "Interviews" by university of missisippi press. Right now I'm starting Kubrick's stuff.

Check this out:

http://www.dga.org/news/mag_inter.php3 ;)

here's a snippet from a Sydney Pollack interview:

Pollack was then asked what drew him into acting in Eyes Wide Shut and what did he think of the movie.

"What drew me to the project was Stanley Kubrick," Pollack answered. "He's a filmmaker I admire enormously. I've never run into a director that didn't learn from his work. He also happened to be a longtime friend. We would have long talks about films for hours and hours. He had enormous curiosity about life; it made me feel good to talk to him. He called and asked me to do it, and I was worried because I had heard stories about how he makes people [who work on his films] into prisoners. He promised me it would be two weeks. It wasn't two weeks, of course; it was more like two months. But I enjoyed it.

02-04-2005, 12:33 AM
10s thank you for the link, i'm always interested in reading articles and interviews with the directors.

Back to this topic what do you guys think about working with the actors? do you care much? do you let them do their thing? do you strickly tell them you must do it this way? what is your way?
10s what do you do?

do any of you apply the method approach to directing your actors, developed by Konstantin Stanislavski.

what I did for my last short was ... not much of rehearshing but some....

Frist I got the actors to introduce themselves by me and all of them standing in a circle and we would throw a beach ball to each other while calling our name/ and character they are playing. First I would get the ball all the time since that's the only name they knew but once everyone got to know each other... it was time to sit down around the table.

What we did was a cold read of the script. No acting, Just saying the words.

Then I asked each of them to talk about how they see the film and how they see their character like and what do they want to bring into this film. Then I talked about my vision of the story.

Next step was getting them into a circle... and we would go thru the script by the characters telling the story through their eyes. So for example when character A's line was up in the script he would step inside the cirlce and say what he was thinking. Same in the scenes where they had no lines but actions. At then at end of the rehearshals for each day I would talk to the actors privatly before they left about their character and what they had to say more and more about them.

There was more of these excercises I wanted to do but I had no time only 3 days of rehearshing. So next steps were having a read around the table with expressions then right after that was doing the basic rehearshal routine- the blocking and staging, by basically acting out the script in the location and the setting.

02-04-2005, 09:53 AM
anybody has the ability to step into a crowded room and get everybody's attention, particularly if they've paid money to listen. it's not enough.

02-04-2005, 02:51 PM
Woodson, my way takes a few different paths. I do my best to previsualize the scene, know it well and plan the shots so the shots support the telling of the story.

In my pre-viz i see & feel the characters, how they react, discover, etc... when I work with actors i like to share my vision, feelings, and get their input also...this takes time. Actors can and will find interpretations that are fantastic, our job is to help them help us.

I shoot scenes according to how I see it and then if I feel it isn't panning out, I'll ad-lib and have actors ad-lib. The trouble with acting is that they need to be authenic but it's not, it's pretend, and in film it's just these tiny pieces, and that's wierd for actors. That presents a problem....the main advice I have is to understand the emotion of the scene and capture that... everything else is sencondary.

Oh, and yes do care about your actors.... a whole lot. They are in a vulnerable position. Their job is to bring emotion to the story so the audience too can access it emotionally. I hope this helps a little.

02-05-2005, 12:02 AM
10s thanks for the advice.

Recommend any good books/articles on understanding the emotion of the scenes and capturing it ?