View Full Version : Your Directing Way

08-28-2004, 12:23 PM
okay, do you guys stick to your shot list and storyboards when you do filming or do you always do bunch of other shots for the mediums etc. Master shot is pretty much a master shot, but with medium shots you can do different stuff. Now when you shoot and shoot all over again the same scene do you stick to just one type of shoot(the one in your head, storyboard, visison etc.) or do you do bunch of different ones for that scene.

08-28-2004, 01:46 PM
Normally, I tend to go with what I have planned in advance first - but time permitting, I'll also do a bunch of stuff that we decide on the spot. There's a lot to be said for spontanaeity, so I do my best to always get what I think is good.

Instinct is something you can't always plan for :D

08-28-2004, 03:57 PM
I agree with Mike. Time permitting, it's always fun to try different things.(some of your best stuff can be spontaneous) .plus it sometimes gets the actors involved and they love it when the director listens to their ideas.

08-30-2004, 07:28 AM
First off I should mentioned that from what I observed, all directors plan and prepare for their shoots differently, catering to their own style of filmmaking and management.

I should also say that there are good directors out there and bad directors, as there is good work and bad work.

The question is, is there a direct correlation between good work and strong preparation? I don't know for sure, but I would venture to say a very big yes. I once heard that Hitchcock did not do shot lists, he just trusted his instincts and this obviously worked for him. Other directors, like David Fincher does extensive storyboarding as well as computer generated pre-viz for his shots. In my opinion, Fincher has some of the most dynamic camera moves and coverage I have ever seen on film. His preparation and attention to detail pays off.

From my experiences, I think its critical to create shot lists before going into a shoot. When you are working on larger budget projects, where each day is running you thousands of dollars, this should be expected...unless of course you are proven, bankable talent who can direct how ever the hell you want. Filmmaking is very much about time management, and this starts with shot lists. Should you stick to your shot lists 100%? Probably not, but it serves as a very useful guide and structure during your shoots.

The best directors are talented individuals who know what they want and direct with confidence. A shot list and coverage plan is a very critical part of this.

I would recommend to any new filmmaker to put in the time to plan your coverage and do shot lists before every shoot. Then allow yourself the flexibility to deviate from this on set...but I warn you, make sure you have an excellent A.D. and fast crew if you plan to change course from your shot list on set.

-Nate Brown

08-30-2004, 07:37 AM
Nate excellent post.

Good preperation is anyones best friend when they actually step foot on to the set. I personally make a very extensive shot list. I think if I got hit by a car on the way to the production, the A.D. could make the movie exactly the way I would. A good shot list will make the shoot go by faster and should you have time after all necessary shots are taken, then maybe you try something different. And often times I like some of the sponataneous shots better.

08-30-2004, 10:13 AM
Just to add a very slight bit to what Nate said:

I too heard that Hitchcock did not use shot lists - but he also apparently at least had the entire scene played out the way he wanted it to be. So while he didn't have anything on paper (which personally I find shocking, visual organization is key for me) he at least had thought everything through in advance. He didn't just make everything up as he went along...

08-30-2004, 01:18 PM
Sometimes it can be an educational experience per itself. Building shotlists and Storyboards for sequences that will never be shot. I think I learn a whole lot, everytime I storyboard. On the set it always gets to how well can you make things go while you're at it. There is room to play after you have the essential, "IF" you manage to keep the pace, keep the organization and keep the rigor and keep the fun. I prepare my shotlists with great care for detail, I let go my artist-self (as if...) and fine tune my vision of the thing. With that ready, I go to the set as an engeneer and try to just take care of everything I had planned. The preparation is essential to judge what is usable and what is not, not only in terms of editing, but also in terms of performance and artistic vision. That makes me less concerned in shooting alternatives to everything, getting late, and setteling for crap.

08-30-2004, 02:03 PM
CAVEAT: I have yet to direct anything myself. But here is my philosophy after not a few years working for and with directors:

Plan everything ahead of time. Know exactly what you want and how to get it. Try to get it.

BUT...don't be so set-in-concrete that you refuse to go another way if the opportunity arises, inspiration hits all of a sudden...or it starts to rain.

But really really really go in knowing what you want and how you want to achieve it and able to communicate it to the rest of the folks. Or they will hate you.


08-30-2004, 05:44 PM
Great inputs guys. What I did on my short that I just fnished production few weeks ago, I pretty much had what I wanted in my head for the scenes, did that and also I did shoots that I didn't have in my head that me and my DP came up with on the set.

When I was preparing for the shoot, the preproduction, I started doing storyboards and shot lists but then I gave up on them cause I was thinking of what my fave directors did or how specific scenes were shot in some of my fave films and I was trying to apply that to my film, and I didn't want to do that, I want to just go with my vision and see what would happen. So I threw all that stuff out and trusted my vision. I did this b/c I don't know what style I have, this will be a learning process.

As start doing more projects, more and more planning will be involved.

But ya I agree with you guys.. the most important thing is Knowing what you what because not knowing what you want and trying to figure out that during filming would waste alot of time.

How intense are your shot lists? Got any examples?

Thats true about Hitchcock, also Sergio Leone, never did any storyboarding or shot list, he had everything in his head from start to finish. When he saw his actor not acting the way he visioned in his head, he would start acting himself and show the actor how it must be done.

08-31-2004, 07:03 AM

As far as examples of shot lists goes, I just replied to an email from a friend and I have copied an excerpt from that email below. She sent me a synopsis with shot ideas for a music video type project, and I gave her my recommendation for creating and organizing shot lists. Hope this helps!

Scene 5
Shot 1
Wide shot of the angelic bride storming out with tears in her eyes. Camera turns around the bride as she is holding her head.
She continues running out and tearing her white dress apart.

Would be broken down like this...

5-1, WS; Bride exits with tears in eye.

5-2, MS-DOLLY; Bride holding head.

5-3, WS; Bride runs out, tears white dress.

The naming conventions I typically go with are (and are pretty standard):

WS: Wide shot
MS: Medium shot (often a 2 button shot)
CU: Close-up
2-SHOT: Two people filling frame.

I also like to mark if its a DOLLY, CRANE, STEDICAM, HANDHELD, etc if there is movement in the shot.

Now there may be deviations from what I just described above. I wouldn't call it a textbook example, but it's what I learned observing directors work and it works for me.

-nate brown, nate@nathanpbrown.com

08-31-2004, 02:22 PM
Hitchcok was a fanatic of the story board. In fact he said that shooting was boring cause, in his case, all was done before (he had the movie filmed already in his mind)

Thatīs normal in the genre that hitchcok moves. But other guys like Buņuel didnīt think where to put the camera till they got to the set. And he trust not just in his instict but in his dreams.

Woody Allen can reshoot the whole movie if he doesnīt like the result.
I think thatīs definetly the best way.

In my way I see that every work needs a different process. or at least we have to think in the process every time we have a new work coming on. Nothin is the same, so having a way of shoting seems ridiculous. Some movies will need a straight preparation (story board an etcetera) some other will not and will fit better in a chaotic shooting.

Now i am preparing a short. I guess i will shot in a month. For me, this preproduction stage is the most enjoyable moment (i love every stage of the process anyway) But preproduction is more relaxing and gives you the time to think how to shot. Which i think is the great challenge in this world. Every decission concerning actors, technical staff, lighting, audio, script.... will slowly telling you how to shoot.
In a natural way.

ŋSpontaneus? Always. Trust your feeling, your emotions. Cause emotions are the thing that makes you want to shoot. At least for me. But donīt forget your preproduction thinkins. If you do the movie will finish up unstyles.

We havenīt finish yet the transition beetwen film shootings and video shootings. In my opinion there are a lot of film shoting style in the video world.
Video is more spontaneus, and we have to take advantage of it.

09-04-2004, 09:10 AM
Well said Mike!

Normally, I tend to go with what I have planned in advance first - but time permitting, I'll also do a bunch of stuff that we decide on the spot. *There's a lot to be said for spontanaeity, so I do my best to always get what I think is good.

Instinct is something you can't always plan for * :D

09-04-2004, 09:29 PM

It's a practice I've heard is commonly followed - and by much better filmmakers than I.

09-05-2004, 05:00 PM
Travis, I love Bunuel , I see a lot of differences in style between the golden age , Diary of a chamber maid and the milky way. could it be that among other things , it is due to more organization in the filming process. I am quite surprised by what you say about not knowing ahead of time where to put the camera. I would have guessed quite the opposite.

09-06-2004, 09:39 AM
Peter Milne on D.W.Griffith's directing style

"The usual director is like a motorist who has carefully studied his road map before setting out on a journey and who refers to it time and again during the trip, specially when he comes to a crossroads. Mr. Griffith never studies a road map. He just jumps into his car and starts going. When he comes to the crossing he takes the road that seems best to him. Sometimes this road is the wrong one. More often it is right."

09-07-2004, 12:33 PM
Buņuel is fantastic.
Bariona, if you got the chance of reading his memories, dontīmiss it. It explain a lot of his personality and the way he thought about art and movies. I suppose they are translated to english. In spanish is called El Ultimo suspiro. I guess is The last breath (or something similar)

Some words about Buņuel:

In his most surrealist films (The chien andalou and the golden years) he knew where to put the camera, in fact he and Dali had a strict story board.
But after that, and when filming the Hurdes he change his ways. Hurdes was a doc, and logically he didnīt storyboard. And his mexican stage was a very intuitive director. Except for Los Olvidados (i donīt know the englisdh title) he allways work in studios, and till he got there didnīt decided what to do, where to put the camera.
El angel exterminador is a good example of that.
His films donīt seems to be planning. Except for the dreams he include. Like the one in Los olvidados and in Nazarin. They seems to be planning ahead. They are more stylize.
A lot of people says that he was very uninterested in the mise in scene.

During his france movies till the end he had an enormous respect by the producers so he did what he want it. He had a lot of ideas during the shooting and never doubt in including them.
In Tristana, one of his latest films, he had the strange idea of giving to the main character (play by Fernando Rey) a big bag full of potatoes. So he character have to walk with it.
Never give any explication.

I think his cinema gives a enormous feeling of liberty. Watching his films you never think that normal things will happen.
And i guess the fredoom its shows has to be with the way he shoot.

09-07-2004, 08:50 PM
In english , My Last Sigh
. I am going to get it.
You are very accurate when you describe this feeling of liberty in his movies, I would describe it more as a continual un-tragic suspense, when one never know what to expect and is continually surprised. la via lactea, is a perfect exemple.
By the way , I was a part of a team that worked with Dali , in Cadaques, making a show with more than 200 actors, for a public of 600 guests.

09-23-2004, 09:46 PM
Hi Guys,

Hitchcok not doing storyboards? He was "the guy" for pre-visualization, obssesive details, centralization and organization. As mentioned his concept was to have everything completelly planned before shooting. His storyboards were so precise he had all the film-look already stablished on his drawings. *He also liked to do his own pre-storyboards as well.

The storyboard process is not and end and can or not be followed. The storyboard great purpose, and all others on pre-production fase are to better develop the whole film concept through visualization of the film, shot and scene sequence. *Sometimes you re-do it many times and try different arrangements beforehand.

Sometimes directors do not follow the storyboard preciselly, but use it as a reminder, togueter with other elements, pictures, notes, etc.. to better have the film shot on that specific date.

Note that in most long features, production and filming take months. *How to organize the whole setup of scenes, actors and everything without material? How to remember everything. After sometime you can not remember that specific look or sensation you so much wished.

Improvisation? Of course! Many things happen during shooting, but if you have already exercised all possibilities it is still better to improvise based in strong arguments.

My advise, visit the location before hand, do rehearsals with the actors, try different things and aproaches and on the filming day, let things flow. If the team knows what to do beforehand your attention will focus on the film, acting, feeling as a whole and not in specific camera angles, shot sizes and movement. And of course after main shots were done and if you have time, the more footage you get(supposing low cost of dv) the better your options on editing.

Coverage shots or different aproaches always adds and not subtract.

Last thing, continuity. If you just improvise on set, will get the risk to loose or forget the whole sequence thing. Of course this does not applies on video-clips or commercials, as continuity is not an issue, improvisation is rather a must have.

Hope this helps... :)

09-24-2004, 08:01 AM
Commercials need to be planned out even further though - they only have 30 seconds, they need to make sure every 30 seconds is golden. Commercial productions are generally the most planned out in advance...

I'm not saying not to plan a feature film beforehand - I definitely do! But there's another way to look at it - In the feature film, having many shots, there are opportunities for hundreds of little shot-to-shot errors, so having one or two is much less detrimental to the overall production than in a more condensed piece, like a 30 second spot.

So I'll reiterate - I'm not suggesting to shoot a feature unplanned - I'm only saying that commercials need to be right on the money for them to work properly.

David Jimerson
09-24-2004, 05:12 PM
My style: many storyboards. Mad-like storyboarding. Storyboards drawn into my copy of the script. Diagrams of the set with precise camera and lighting plots. Then decide exactly which shots I want and give it to my AD to schedule. Let her kick everyone's ass (inlcuding mine) to keep us on that schedule.

09-25-2004, 09:26 AM
The prep we go through for commercials in pretty unbelievable.

We go through about six steps of testing and conceptualization before we even enter pre-production. There is a tremendous amount of documentation by the time a spot, or a series of spots goes into production.

In advertising, there are many clients spending $500,000-$1,000,000 on :30, and they don't take it lightly.

More time goes into the planning of the national-level commercials then probably any other area of film production. This is due to sensitivity of the material, and the cost per minute of commercials is higher than any other area of film production, including most of Hollywood features (due mainly to economies of scale).

09-29-2004, 11:59 AM
To further clarify...that's many clients spending $500,000-$1,000,000 per SPOT...not per PRODUCTION.

Yes, serious business. Talk about all chiefs and no indians.

With that said, I wouldn't say that there's more time or effort put into commercials then features unless you're comparing screen time to screen time. I agree that commercial prepro is far more involved then features on a second by second basis, but the total planning for features can be far more involved then the total planning for commercials.

And for those of you who've never gotten in with a commercial production company...it can be a really sweet ride, so get it where you can.

10-20-2004, 11:14 AM
If you dont like what the actors are doing (acting or behavior on the set, or cancelling "oh, i cant make it today sorry" - 10 minutes before the shoot) FIRE THEM and CAST AGAIN.
Dont think: "lets finish this movie".

You CANT make a movie being a pussy. You cant have fun and energy and passion for YOUR PROJECT if you are afraid of your talents. I mean you can finish the movie being a pussy but you will end up feeling like pussy even if your movie will be great. Choice is yours.

You dont like them? They dont like you? FIRE THEM. There are thousands waitng for a chance to get the part. And when they say: "oh, you cant pay me, i got to stop shooting now (in the middle of the shooting) and go for this auditon ...i ll be back in two hours" - FIRE THEM IMMEIDATELY cos it tells you how important the movie is for them.

FIRE everybody if you feel that you made mistake casing. It is better than shooting someting you dont like yourself.

Yes, fire them all.


10-20-2004, 01:13 PM
Sometimes you can't fire and have to go with what you have.
For example if you have equipment, camera rented for the weekend and shooting your short. You can't just fire someone, you gotta shoot what you got the best way possible, cause there's no way you can cast while you are in production. Fortunetly this never happend to me, my actors were great, and I'm very thankful for that.