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Aaron Koolen
04-15-2005, 11:27 PM
Hi all. This is sort of an ephemeral question and one with no real, simple answer. But I'm interested in knowing how you guys got into directing?

I ask because here is my situation:

I've been a programmer most of my life. I'm 34 and earn a really good living doing it, but it just doesn't cut it for me anymore - more than that - I am starting to despise it. For the last couple of years I've been dabbling in video, trained as an actor and my interest in moving pictures is growing. Long term, I see myself directing (docco or dramatic), but what I'm lost about is how to go about entering the industry. I am planning on leaving my job this year with enough cash to live for a year, and spend that time doing volunteer work at a film or music video production place, on set and learning the production workflow - not only for experience but for contacts and networking also. I also feel that I need to spend a lot of that time building a reel and getting experience doing it - directing.

Add to that, the fact that it's very hard to be a working, paid director, I'm thinking that I need a secondary skill. I don't have film training, but know video a bit, so thought that heading down the camera op/video dp route might be a good thing. Of course I won't be dedicating enough time to be a specialised DP, but am thinking that it is one way to get on set, helping others with their projects and learning. I guess, I'm thinking that if I'm looking at building a reel, being a reasonable DP would be a great asset for when I can't get one of my own, as it's a large part of the picture.

So, how did you guys move into the industry? Do you think I should get any old job, and it can lead to directing, or do you suggest a certain path? Is doing my own reel more important then working on other projects for a couple of years to learn? What?

Well, sorry for the rather "out there" question, but any helpful advice is really appreciated as I need to formulate a plan.

Aaron

jpbankesmercer
04-16-2005, 07:31 AM
Edit as well. Path what path, where , there was a path??
I've gone it alone for the last four years. It's hard to make a living. Make lots of contacts production/ non-production. Be aggressive and get out and film. It's a life-long path I'm afraid. Try everything and you will find that you're drawn into areas again and again. It's a hard slog so you need lots of belief in yourself. It's more of a vocation. I say edit because it's something you can fall back on and will improve your directing skills. DP's/ Camera/ Sound tend to get more work. As someone said to me.. 'There is never enough directing work to go around!' , when I had innocently asked another director if he had anything I could take off his hands.
Saying all that, it's great!!!
J.P.

Aaron Koolen
04-16-2005, 03:10 PM
Thanks JP. Yeah, that's the feeling I get too. Work in various areas to get the money to keep you going, make contacts, and get experience. It's definitely a sort of vocation that I'm not used to. I'm used to a job, where I work it and get paid at the end and know what I'm getting.

Thanks for the advice - it all helps to put things in perspective for the long journey I have ahead!

Aaron

jpbankesmercer
04-16-2005, 04:08 PM
Aza,
Good luck buddy! If your serious be ready for the no-money/ doubting yourself days. It's worth it. You do start to earn money honestly!
J.P.
(No-one seems to post these days, sorry you did not get a better response)

Aaron Koolen
04-16-2005, 05:10 PM
Thanks again. I used to live the no money/doubting myself lifestyle (I was an independent games programmer for a while) and I didn't mind it. But after earning a healthy salary for that last 7 years, it's hard to give up ;)

But I know I have no choice - programming is killing me and I want to do something more creative.

Thanks again
Aaron

Taylor Moore
04-16-2005, 08:07 PM
JP is right, Editing is a great path to directing. I was a commercial editor for many years before being offered to direct some projects. I still do both task independently and sometimes the same tasks on the same project.

There is no easy road...competition is vicious and sometimes it does come down to who you sleep with...but i could never go down that path.

With the advent of great new digital gear like the dvx, and inexpensive editing and audio tools...it is alot simplier to create your vision and then show it to the right people.

You will have to get a thick skin, but eventually you will get a break....

it's not an easy vocation, but hopefully you will find what you are looking for within the pursuit.

Aaron Koolen
04-16-2005, 10:04 PM
Thanks Taylor. I've done a couple of small editing jobs for people in the past and my skills get better the more I do it. My psyche is geared towards being a self employed guy, so my aim will be in that direction - maybe with some fixed part time work if necessary. I'm thinking that maybe trying to meld creative work and experience gathering, by doing corporate stuff for small businesses. Also, some of the TV advertisements I see on some channels here in NZ are appalling. And feel that someone with a little talent, some good gear could do them wonders.

Cheers
Aaron

Cineaste
04-17-2005, 12:16 AM
I am also a programmer and I do the filmmaking thing in my spare time, so far I've done a couple of shorts and now I am doing the 4th rewrite of a feature I want to shoot in my home country El Salvador later this year. I been watching films for a long time but it wasn't until a few years back that I started really watching films specially stuff by kubrick, bergman, fellini and the work of art they've produce injected me with the filmmaking bug and I haven't stop since.

one of the keys for me is to keep on working on something related to filmmaking at all time , reading books on the way home on lighting, editing, acting, etc. just keep yourself focused on your goal and you will get there.

Aaron Koolen
04-17-2005, 01:07 AM
Johnmilton, that's something that I'm only just learning - focus. I tend to get bogged down with work life and other things that distract me and it can go for weeks without me doing anything film related. I need to change this. So even though I'm knackered, I need to keep going and going.

Aaron

krestofre
04-17-2005, 09:04 AM
Something that really helped me was to make the transition in my mind first. Don't think to yourself "I'd like to be a director." Think "I'm a director." I struggled with this for a long time. I was always an editor who would like to direct. My wife would tell people that I was working on directing a film and I'd always shy away and say "Oh, it's not really a film, I'm just doing something in my spare time." It took me a long time to become a director who edits to pay the bills.

I know that's advice probably more towards the psychology side than you were looking for, but I thought I'd throw it out.

Chris

Aaron Koolen
04-17-2005, 01:04 PM
Chris, psychology is good! That's something I wrestle with a lot - getting that mind firmly planted in the "That's what I am" camp and then just doing it. Thanks!

Aaron

smithgallTV
04-17-2005, 02:14 PM
man sees a beautiful woman at a bar. strikes up a conversation with her. Flirts with her. he tells her "I am extremely wealthy. If i gave you $1 million would you sleep with me?" woman thinks about it and finnally says "for $1 million, yes i will sleep with you" man says "would you sleep with me for $5." Woman angrily responds "$5 hell no, what do you think i am?" Man says "We have already established what you are now we are just negotiating the price"

Krestofre is right. i think its important to convince yourself that you are what you want to be. You dont have to be spielburg to be called a director. if you direct you are a director. I did about 3 local shows on cable access when one of the guys that works at the cable studio mentioned to me that "as a Tv producer you should....." I kind of froze.. did he just call me a TV producer? But when i thought about it, yeah he was right. i had written a script. I had found a local guy to shoot the camera, i got some actor friends together, i rehersed them and then i executed the actual shoot, had the tape converted to beta took it to the studio and they aired it. Thats what a producer does. But in my mind i was thinking but this is just cable access. Its the same thing. the venue may be smaller but its the activity that counts.

Now i have done about 15 shows total and have started work on some commercial for a golf business. Am I in the same league for Jerry Bruckheimer. no....not yet.. but coudl be some day.

jpbankesmercer
04-17-2005, 04:56 PM
Director I am and proud. You are what you do. Live it man...hehehe
J.P.

evinsky
04-22-2005, 04:57 PM
The reality is that very few people ever get to make a living directing. If you can it's probably because you spent ten years shooting, editing, acting or producing to put yourself in the position to make the jump. The cliche "What I really want to do is direct" is very true. But very few people really understand what the job entails. Infact quite a few working directors I know can't quite account for how they got where they are. I can give you my story though. I'll start off by saying that about 75% of my income is purely from directing the rest is from DP and still work. Mostly I direct TV for CMT, industrial videos, and low budget commercials. I started in still photography. Did that for three years out of photo school. I went to Brooks.
That's where I got lucky. One of my cllients was a Production Company. The Exec. Producer like my work so much she wanted me to start directing for her. She put up 5K to start my reel and we started to work. It's really not that glamours. I shoot shorts and personal stuff too so I can generally improve my craft, but I'd bet you make more $ than I do programming.
All in all I'm just glad to be doing what I love.

krestofre
04-22-2005, 07:42 PM
All in all I'm just glad to be doing what I love.

And in the end, that's really all a person can ask. I'm lucky that my income actually comes from editing. If you knew me away from the board I'd complain endlessly about my job, but honesly, it's pretty cool to be able to make a living in any type of video production / film.

Of course what I really want to do is direct. :laugh:

Chris

leewriter
04-23-2005, 10:35 PM
there's a right way and a wrong way to become a director. First of all, you really, really need to have an intimate knowledge of the tools you'll be working with. You need to have a strong handle on lighting, audio, camera, lens optics, GOOD editing techniques (forget the special effects for now), good storytelling, good writing skills. Why all that? Because if you don't have a solid handle on all that you might be able to recognize when something's not right with the image, the edit, or the script, but you won't know how to fix it and you won't be able to communicate in the language of the experts to tell them something's broke. How do I know? I started out that way and I've been a director since 1980. Won my first international award at the New York Film Festival in 1983. Just like being a good carpenter, programmer, or anything, you have to have knowledge of the tools and years to build up your skills. You can hop right in to directing but you won't achieve the excellence you desire until you've gotten some seasoning, experience, and developed your "chops" Do you think Eric Clapton became a world-famous guitar player overnight? How about Coppola, Spielberg, Scorcese? it took them years before they did their first film. they went to school and did a lot of grunt work along the way. there is no easy route. It's one of those "sweat equity things."

Stanrick_Kubley
04-24-2005, 02:16 AM
I couldn't agree more with what Lee said about knowing your craft. If there's anything lacking in the world of commercial art these days, it is a lack of basic skills. When fundamentals go, artists start relying on tricks - style mostly. It's important to learn formal skills, as boring as they may seem at the time. If you want to learn to draw comics, you can't start with trying to recreate the art form. First you've got to learn to draw a circle.

The trouble is there is no longer a system of mentoring new directors. In the old days, directors were old guys who learned the job bit by bit over decades, and so they knew their stuff inside and out. There was nothing getting in the way of their vision except the quality of the vision itself.

Where I differ with Lee (with due respect to his experience) is in knowledge of technical things. I don't think it's unimportant; I just file those under technique, and technique is impossible not to pick up if you're practicing the basics. Shoot one movie on film, and you will learn enough. There are more important things to learn, and they can't be easily quantified. Why did you shoot the scene that way?

I know lots of people who years ago would take a good-paying P.A. gig when I would take a free or next-to-free directing gig. Consequently, I became a director to the people I worked with in that capacity, and a guy who's worked his way up to a First A.D. will have a much harder time moving into the director's chair. What's the lesson? I don't know, except that first impressions are important. If people meet you as a thing, they will tag you as one forever. It flies in the face of logic, since most people I knew in entertainment are multitalented, but I label people too, so...

To answer the question, I "got in", though I am nowhere near where I want to be, through animation. Animation directing is HARD. Every shot has to be preplanned in storyboard form, and if you can't illustrate how your ideas work before hand, you literally can't do the job. From there, I forced my way (and I work with a directing partner) into live action. Of course, this was after spending my childhood making little movies on video and learning the little things.

jpbankesmercer
04-24-2005, 05:32 AM
Where I differ with Lee (with due respect to his experience) is in knowledge of technical things. I don't think it's unimportant; I just file those under technique, and technique is impossible not to pick up if you're practicing the basics. Shoot one movie on film, and you will learn enough. There are more important things to learn, and they can't be easily quantified. Why did you shoot the scene that way?


To really control a situation you need to know enough technical/ basic composition. If you know the best way to record something and you have some understanding of true optical perspective, you get into a position of making the right choices for the theme. You can rely on a great operator/ dp who will get what you want but no everybody is great.

ettubaby
04-24-2005, 02:05 PM
there's a right way and a wrong way to become a director. First of all, you really, really need to have an intimate knowledge of the tools you'll be working with. You need to have a strong handle on lighting, audio, camera, lens optics, GOOD editing techniques (forget the special effects for now), good storytelling, good writing skills. Why all that? Because if you don't have a solid handle on all that you might be able to recognize when something's not right with the image, the edit, or the script, but you won't know how to fix it and you won't be able to communicate in the language of the experts to tell them something's broke.

I think you might mean filmmaker, not director, filmmaker can be a jack-of-all-trades, using his/her friends where the filmmaker tell them what to do, like monkeys. But director implies industry and you post implies that you must know everyone elses job to protect youself against potential incompetence. Directors don't tell other professionals how to do their job and especially if they are union. You are asking for trouble. Its like a symphony conductor, they don't need to know how to play a violin, they job is the most important and visible. It is to get everyone working in unison, set the pace. the director is the conduit.

If someone wants to be a director, they should go to filmschool. Coppola, Spielberg, Scorcese got their initial training at NYU or USC

jpbankesmercer
04-24-2005, 02:50 PM
Depends on how much of an egocentric megalomaniac you are.

ettubaby
04-24-2005, 03:13 PM
Depends on how much of an egocentric megalomaniac you are.
Think...James Cameron :)
Has he done anything since Titanic? You know it was filmed in Mexico, which I think one of the reason they all hate us done there...

Chris Messineo
04-25-2005, 11:09 AM
I just finished reading this book: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0767906748/qid=1114452512/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/104-5573140-2374319

It was very inspirational in my own journey to become a director.

Chris