View Full Version : How to be taken seriously...

09-15-2004, 12:12 PM
Hi, I'm 17, well, turning 18 in a matter of days, and soon I will be directing my first official short. It seems that "being taken seriously" is a major problem that I would have to face during casting calls and up until the first stages of production. In your experiences, do you think a 40 year old (give or take a few years) actress/actor, no matter their talent/skill, would take an 18 year old director seriously? Or is it completely the opposite? I'm looking for any suggestions that could help me through this process. Of course, conducting myself with maturity and professionalism is obvious. Also, it being my first official short, are there any tips you could provide me with on how to "manage" myself on set as to not have actors/actresses rolling their eyes at my, well, newbieness. Also, when production actually begins, when should I tell my actors to be at the location? Should I give enough time for almost all of the equipment to be set up by the time they get there? Or should they be there when we're beginning to set it all up? Any tips and suggestions - perhaps stories of shooting your own memorable first shorts or films - would be very very appreciated. Thank you.

Bryan Esposito

Neil Rowe
09-15-2004, 12:44 PM
first thing bryan.. be confident in who you are.. for example we dont need to know that your almost 18.. just say your 17. its a thing with me when people do this cause its an attempt to make sure that one is seen as older or more mature, but the fact is that older people dont like to say or admit they are any older than they are.. they usually would preffer to be younger.. AAAAAANYWAY.... :P nuff about that.

heres the deal. if your actors dont take you seriously , then dont take them seriously. get differnt actors. but in any case if you want to be on top of things and you dont have a speilberg resume, then youve got to have everything planned out to a T. actors get eye roll itchy when a dirctor or producer doesnt seem to know whats going on.. so even if your at a loss at moments.. just do a little acting yourself, and walk over and talk to your DP or somone in a seriouys looking manner like your discussing something pertinent.. or look at your script or shotlist while you think about what on earth your supposed to do in the situation. sounds stupid..yes, but i dont think it would hurt at all to do. because if actors dont respect you, they are not going to give a good performance. ..

its like back when i was in high school..and after too.. i played soccer, and alot of times if my team thought that another team sucked too bad, they would slack the whole game, and give up goals cause they were too lazy to do anything but sit there and think we would automatically win because ANY performace would be good enough to beat the sucky team, and just the fact that they are standing on the field should be good enough ..man i hated that.

so anyway the point is the actors need to really believe in the film, and your ability to direct it, or you can expect those eye rolls. so if your giving them top notch professionalism . preparation, and direction to look up to , and they cant get over the age thing.. lose them. the actor with the perfect "look" for the part is only going to ruin it if they are couch potatoing the performance the whole time.. vs someone who may not look perfect, but is ready to work, and give you the respect that a director, and producer needs to make a quality film will be like gold for you.

have them get there during setup, and use the time to go over lines with you, and prep for the scene so that when its set up, they are ready to go and your not rehearsing for another hour or whatever still.

..also having a larger crew will demand a bit more resapet because they would be wasting alot of peoples time, and energy if they are not going to throw down when they get ther, and people will be rolling their eyes at them. mor equipment helps.. cause it seems like a more serious big production.. a more serious looking camera helps:mattebox ..and follow focus and rials and such..
a sound setup or at least a seperate sound man certainly helps.

good luck . and remember that the more you believe in yourslef the more people will believe in you. your whole crew nees to be onboard.. its like captaiing a ship in alot of ways.. you need to demand, and command respect.. if your not getting it, you need to talke with the offender, and remove them if needed, cause making any film long or short is a hectic voyage, and a grumbling amoung the crew, or a mutany is THE LAST thing on earth you need. so dont be too demanding and cause strife cause you act like theres a stick in your posterior..just be real, but be resolute, and positive with encouragement. and take the time to explain to people why you are choosing to do what you are doing and why what you say goes(cause its your film and your vision, and you know that what youve decided is best for that vision and the film) if there are any challenges or disputes. ..speak softly but carry a big stick. and dont let the bed bugs bite the partridge in the pear tree.


09-15-2004, 01:36 PM
Thanks, that was a great response. I too used to play soccer, and unfortunately I relate to those type of situations. That example helped a lot in showing me the actor's point of view of a bad director. I guess the best thing to do would have everything planned out, like you said, to a "T", for this first one. How exactly should I go about the casting call? What is the process? e.g. 1) place an ad, 2) get a call, 3) explain the script, 4) meet with the actors/actresses, get to know them by asking a few questions, have them read a part or three, 5) let them know that i'll get back to them if they got the part, 6) decide...?

09-15-2004, 11:16 PM
Sounds like you've got it pretty well together. I don't see there being any other way to do a casting call...

Another thing that would help at the casting call would be a camera to do some screen tests. People can look and act quite differently when on camera and it also helps to make your audition more professional. Having a monitor/television with your actors face on it while they read the lines makes it look much more hardcore and will also cause the actor to perform their best.

Having a professional attitude will help you regardless of your age. Making sure you don't use a lot of slang or swearing can help unless you really get to know the people around you and that they are cool with that. It's important to show that you're serious about making the film rather than just doing it for a joke. Careful use of language can definitely make a difference...

09-16-2004, 09:34 AM
Seventeen year olds are kids, as are eighteen year olds. *You’ll be facing the kid wrap well into your twenties because there’s always someone older around who may or my not find your difference in age to be novel.

Here’s the thing though…there’s a big difference between a kid who’s green and a kid who’s an idiot. *People tend to respect guys who try but have no experience, what they don’t respect is people who are young enough to not know anything but arrogant enough to think they’ve got things covered. *Don’t be one of those guys and you’ll be fine.

I wouldn’t worry about people not taking you seriously until you’ve got a valid reason to fear it. *Sure you’re young, but it’s a business that isn’t very rooted in age. *You’ve got 34 year old producers, 19 year old PA’s, 23 year old directors and 75 year old DP’s all on the same shoot most of the time. *Age doesn’t count for much in this business unless you’re an actress.

Remember that as the director, you’re the owner of the business. *You hire everyone, you fire everyone, you help where you can and you step back where you can’t. *A 40 year old actor that wants your role is going to have to please you and work FOR you. *If they don’t, can them as quick as you possibly can.

As far as a call time for your actors…that depends on how inexperienced your crew is. *If they’re new at this game, give them at least an hour or two before the actors arrive so they can just jump into the shoot.

09-16-2004, 12:03 PM
You'll find if you treat people with respect and do good work, you'll get respect whatever age you're at. You'll get far in life by being talented AND nice.

John is right about being green vs being a young punk. Never act like you know what you don't and don't be afraid to ask questions. When people try to act like they know more than they do they eventually get caught...and this is a quick way to lose people's respect for you.

When I was 19 I got the chance to direct a film with a professional crew. They knew I was green, but they came to respect me because I showed an eagerness to learn and I worked hard to be the best director I could be. I still work with this crew today, and although most are 20 years my senior, that age difference couldn't mean less.

09-16-2004, 12:22 PM
Thanks for the responses guys. All these suggestions are helping tremendously.

09-16-2004, 01:04 PM
Everyone's given good suggestions so far.

One thing I'd always remember - if you're making a good movie, everything else will fall into place. In order for the movie to be good, you have to be organized, and if you're organized, you'll appear professional. Appearing professional will get you the respect of your cast and crew, giving them good reason to work harder, and in full circle, this will make a better movie.

And definitely, if the actors are regardless of any effort still not treating you with respect - get new actors. It wont be a good environment OR a good movie unless you have their respect.

09-17-2004, 02:55 AM
A person who doesn't respect you is a person who doesn't trust you. And a person who doesn't trust you will be fundimentally opposed to taking direction.

Chris Messineo
09-17-2004, 09:17 AM

It sounds like you are on the right track.

As for the audition process, I would definitely have all your equipment setup, taped down, and be good to go. Our actors, were definitely impressed when they saw our setup and realized they were dealing with people who were thorough and professional.

Also, I come from a theater background and in watching the auditions I was practically ready to cast it on the spot. But, when we watched it on tape, we had a big change of heart, some actors are just better on stage and some on film and you want to make sure you are seeing "how much the camera likes them".


09-17-2004, 10:01 AM
Thanks CMessineo, I'll be sure to bring a camera to the auditions.

Neil Rowe
09-27-2004, 09:47 AM
yep.. you also want to see if people get camera shy.. some people can perform well , but get all weird when a camera is on them. and sort of "play up to the camera" by usig body language and posture as well as facial expression that is just dramatising a simple action or line. .. you want actors who can appear natural and as if the camera is not there at all.

09-28-2004, 10:07 PM
Never lie about yourself. You will be demanded to have all the answers, and that will really be your job, especially in what concerns the actors. Know your script well, but never fake an answer. Ask for 5 minutes to think and if you really are lost, take a chance. Go for the green, follow your stomach. If you ask for 5 minutes too often, or if you take longer than 10 you'll seem lost (Don't take it literally, but it's kinda true...). I have took tasks to me that I didn't knoe I was cabable, but today I take them as pure irresponsability. I am not for it at all, and most of the time, I don't want to be around people that I can fool that easily..

09-29-2004, 11:51 AM
The "never lie about yourself" comment can't be stressed enough. Lies are just too hard to live up to most of the time, so don't trap yourself in one. Don't think that you need to lie anyway, if lying is the only way to get something...then you're surely not meant to have it in this point of your lifetime.

You have to be very fatalistic about certain things in your career and very optomistic about others, but either way, manipulation will never work for long. There's a certain charm in people who have no experience and are dying to try, while everyone harbors some deep hatrid of people who have no experience and fake their way into situations they shouldn't be in.

I'm sure everyone can think of a number of people in their lives, or gasp...governments that fit that description.

Living alone will grant you experience, but integrity will always be in short supply.

09-29-2004, 11:20 PM
Living alone will grant you experience, but integrity will always be in short supply.

Is that a J_Barnes original? Or have I heard it before?...

Great line either way!

09-30-2004, 03:13 AM
I've hereby licenced it to the general public with the Creative Commons Attribution license.

do as thou wilt.

09-30-2004, 09:01 AM

10-02-2004, 02:54 PM
Hey, Vertigo

How did the shoot go?

I directed my first short a few weeks back and some of the pointers I learnt were;

You will always encounter problems, the key is how you handle and get around them.

I didn't even let our actors know about the problems we encounted and let them beleive everything was going well and according to plan but the crew knew on the down low.

I didn't let them know is because it would lower their spirits and loose confidence in the project.

I'm not a big fan of improv (lines, actions etc) no matter how slight, in some cases it can change the context and doesn't acheive what you intended and doesn't work. So try and stick to the plan as much as possible and then experiment with an improv if needed as a back up.

Finally; clever editing can fix or improve any scene that you aren't happy with.

Practical experience is the best teacher and I bet you are now so much more prepared for your next attempt.

Good luck

10-02-2004, 10:51 PM
Finally; clever editing can fix or improve any scene that you aren't happy with.

I can't say that I agree with this one...sometimes bad is just bad :-/

10-02-2004, 11:10 PM
Yeah, if you've got bad coverage for something, there's no amount of editing that can fix it... you've got to make sure you've got the best you possibly can get when shooting because everything gets worse from there down to the finished product. You need to start at a much higher level than you want to end up with.

10-03-2004, 09:50 AM
When on the shoot FEED THE CAST AND CREW! That can't be stressed enough, when people get hungry, you don't get the best out of them, from botching lines, to the boom dropping into frame every shot. It's just courtesy, and if it's a short shoot, get it catered, that looks very professional.

On second thought, you don't even have to get it catered, just go buy those platter style things from Safeway, and designate someone to set up the table half an hour before lunch.

10-03-2004, 02:46 PM
Yeah... food is the most underrated thing on a film shoot. It keeps you cast and crew healthy and happy, looks professional, and gives those working for free something out of the whole deal... most amateur filmmakers overlook this so much but it can mean all the difference...

10-03-2004, 03:33 PM
Oh, THiN reminded me of another point. While pizza is a fun food and all, it can't be every meal. Get some healthy stuff. Try assorted deli meat sandwiches, have things to drink other than soda. For snacks, I always keep granola bars around. AND WATER!! ALWAYS HAVE WATER! Kept on ice is best, but if not convenient, don't worry about it.

10-03-2004, 04:24 PM
Providing food is definitly important to keep moral and energy up especially if they arn't getting paid

(If time alows) Another thing I tried was to find out what music/songs gets the leading actors pumped and played it during make up or lunch etc. When you here a song that pumps you up, you become charged up for the task at hand.

Regarding the bad coverage mentioned earlier;

I agree bad coverage is bad coverage, but if you only have a limited time at a location or problems effect your time table, you have to pick which Key or important scenes/shots to spend more time on, which means some may not get the time or attention you would like.

In case you do end up with bad coverage you have to work around it. As a last resort cleaver editing can repair or improve it.

A great example of this in Star Wars (eps 4) When Luacs shot the sand creature attacking Luke with a stick in the dessert, It holds up the stick once menacingly over its head.

In editing, Lucas played this action backwards and forwards a few times and added in a menacing growl. The creature now appears to be shaking the stick over its head feircely in anger as it attacks Luke.

Check it out on the Star Wars trilogy; Extra Features disc "Empire of dreams" It's an awsome documantary and you see how many obstacles Lucas encounted during shooting. (But he got around it and made one of the greatest movies ever)

10-03-2004, 09:59 PM
Yeah, you can cover things up, you really shouldn't have to do though... sometimes there's no other option, you should never go into a project intending to fix it in post.

That music idea is a really good one. I should remember it and try using it myself on a shoot. During breaks and stuff having a nice stereo in the background or something. Helps lighten the atmosphere and renergizes people.

Yes, bottled water is very important. You can get a 24 of it for like $5 at the grocery store... there's no reason not to have any on hand...

10-04-2004, 12:06 AM
"We'll just have to do it in post." How many times have we ALL said that phrase?

10-04-2004, 06:23 AM
I hate eating pizza on a shoot. If I'm on an indie shoot and they have pizza two days in a row, it's very difficult for them to have me stay for three days in a row.

The best gigs I've ever worked have been at Ad Agencies because they keep an account at all the local restaurants and they just tell you to circle what you want on the menu.

I nice salmon steak and a fruit smoothie make me much happier then a greasy pepperoni slice.

10-04-2004, 05:26 PM
vertigo, I was in your position at that age. I recall always having more difficulty directing people my own age than older people. Older folks always seemed enamored with my "maturity", which is to say they seemed happy that I, being a teenager, wasn't pulling a gun on them. Younger people, especially if was working with people I knew, were harder to wrangle, because they didn't know me as the director; they knew me as me. People will respect you, though, if you know what you're doing. There is no art to it. The way to look like you know what you're doing is to really know.

I think of the central core of directing not leadership or management (although those things play a part) but responsibility. That is the attitude to have. You're responsible for the how the movie turns out, including the quality of the acting or any other creative element. And most people are generally happy if someone else has responsibility.

From a general production standpoint, I find with really small indie productions, that it's harder to focus, especially if you're taking on technical jobs in addition to direction, like lighting and so forth. My advice is to focus all your energy on the creative side, not the technical. Try to deligate setting up lights and electical and all that as much as you can - I mean the mundane details. It's easy to get bogged down in that stuff if you don't have a full crew. If you keep your mind on what you're trying to put on screen, you'll be fine. Anyway, good luck!

10-04-2004, 09:52 PM
That's some good advice right there. Nobody likes to take responsibility for anything. Nobody likes making decisions. If you can be the one to do that for everyone else, no one will feel like they're doing all that much work... it becomes more of a mindless job and makes people happier in general when they aren't responsible.

10-05-2004, 07:12 AM
Everyone here has posted such good responses. I have a 17 year old on my crew, and he got there because he has SKILLS. He works, he studies, he makes his own films in his parents garage when we aren't working together on something. He has a very good eye for framing and composition. He knows lighting and he can be very organized and meticulous. He has, and continues to earn, everyone elses respect. The other crew members, the actors, my investors, all know that we want him there on the set, because he makes a difference. His talent is far greater than his "newbie-ness" Does he know everything? No, but he is so unabashedly persistent in his desire to learn all he can, and soak up every bit of experience he can. You just can't help but respect that. If you totally love the craft of filmmaking, age is unimportant.
On a totally different note:
Good catering, and continuously available juices, drinks, and water cost much less than the quality the generate.
Also when the movie is done, have a cast party and screen the movie to the actors and crew. Feed them again, and if possible fund beverages that are apropos for an adult festive gathering (Champagne - Beer) Actors talk, and you WANT them talking about what a great experience it was working with your company. It will really pay off in the long run. And at 17, you have a long run ahead of you.

10-06-2004, 05:36 AM
To further echo collink's advice about a post party...

I've worked a lot of different short term projects in my life, and regardless of the work, be it a festival a film or a documentary...there are moments during the project when you swear to never work for those people again...to never work in that situation again.

I can honestly say though, that as good or as bad as a shoot turns out to be, you remember the party more then anything...and often times that party alone can get you to work on the next shoot, festival, doc, whatever.

A crew party is always a good thing. It allows people to interact without the context of a deadline hanging over everyone's heads. Often times you will find that the most bitter enemies on set are able to release that tension once the film is over and they've put a couple of drinks behind them.

It's wonderful venting for both the positive and negative aspects of a production.

10-07-2004, 12:15 AM
Yes for sure, although there are those enemies on set that you'll know you'll never work with again for the life of you simply because of how bad they were. I've experienced that and no after party would ever want me to work with that person ever again.

10-07-2004, 05:41 AM
I agree absolutely. There's a DP out there now who wouldn't be caught dead in a dark alleyway with me because of one hell of an unsettled grudge...

But, in the pursuit of something as monumental as say...a location shoot, people can really change their behavior and the way they treat other people in the duties of their job. People that might normally be calm and collected can become harried and bossy when faced with the multitude of difficulties in the making of a film. Tempers run artificially high, people become unusually sensitive and relationships come to be defined by the way a person accomplishes their job on set.

Once the shooting is over, people can relax into their normal selves, operate like a functional human being, and rethink their approach to their fellow crewmembers.

Often times a crew party provides such an effective catharsis for everyone involved that people quickly forget how difficult it was to work with each other.

As you said, there are people on set that you vow to never work with again, but often times that feeling will permeate the entire shoot and taint all the people you worked with. Having something cathartic at the end of an experience allows people to release some of those grudges and rethink their experience as a whole and how it relates to each person they dealt with.

The one shoot this brings to my mind had a great crewparty. The shoot was pretty grueling and I’d already decided that I didn’t want to work with any of those people again. Going to the party gave me the perspective to see that all of my difficulties were caused by one person on set and not the experience as a whole. Being able to enjoy myself and commiserate with people who’d experienced similar hardships on the same shoot allowed me to see that my individual experience was simply par for the course.

If there wasn’t a crew party, the sour note that marked the end of the shoot would have continued for many people involved in the project. And most importantly, because I was able to let go of some of the frustrations I’d experienced on the shoot, I was able to build a lasting relationship with many of the members of that crew.

The AD personally carried me on various other projects for three straight years, and as I said earlier…the DP has an outstanding warrant for a slapping match.

10-07-2004, 01:48 PM
I find it funny that the problem on your set was the DP as well. I swear, this DP on one shoot I was working on I wanted to slap across the face!

10-09-2004, 01:55 AM
It's because some DP's have a stick up their ass. They "Sculpt vis the light" and your a stupid moron if you try to put the camera there.

I always DP/ direct, but one time an actor tried to tell me what angle was going to work better, when I told him how the shot was going to cut to the next, he started telling me that he can't wait to direct. Some people.

I shot it both ways, just to see if maybe he was right. And no, no he was not.

10-12-2004, 08:08 AM
I find it funny that the problem on your set was the DP as well. I swear, this DP on one shoot I was working on I wanted to slap across the face!

As my age has progressed, I've learned more and more about people. I know that the DP on this particular shoot had some serious self-confidence issues. He was not immediately liked by the crew and he didn't think I gave him the respect he deserved.

I made a few too many jokes for his liking, none at his expense, and he took it upon himself to try and "haze" me because I was green and had a good attitude. I think he was trying to entertain the rest of the crew by putting me through my paces, but that made everyone else respect him less.

The most notable example was when he sent me outside at night in the freezing wind to climb up a tree and take down a blazing hot PAR HMI. The process took a good 20 minutes and as soon as I walked inside from stowing the light, he said "You know, I think I was wrong...put it back up".

Being slightly more experienced now, I know how to deal with people a little more effectively and I think I would have been able to diffuse the problem in our relationship before it got so contentious.

10-12-2004, 01:02 PM
Yeah, i've had that similar experience. I was working on this film as a grip. I was good friends with the writer/director/producer and wasn't able to commite fulltime to the production, so I came on the last two days of the shoot (short film 4 day shoot) to help out as a grip. I think the DOP realized i was good friends with the director and knew more about film itself. I think he felt threatened by me and because i was a grip, i was technically working under him... there was a scene in a bedroom where there was partial nudity, but not really though, just kind of a sexy scene... i spent a lot of time in there before the shoot setting everything up, so there wasn't anything there I hadn't seen. Once the setup was completed they needed some grips to hold flags. I was in there holding a flag when the DOP told me to leave the room because there were too many people in it.

I was the only one not in the room during the shoot itself, he got a PA to hold the flag... from that moment i knew he had some serious issues with me... he was a terrible DP though. He ruined my friends film with his shitty cinematography. I resent him more for that than anything else...

10-12-2004, 10:54 PM

I'll let ya hold my flags THiN!

10-13-2004, 10:20 PM
hahaha thanks TC