There’s more to directing a video shoot than wearing a beret and sitting in a tall canvas folding chair. Directing is serious business. Many famous directors have reputations for being absolute control freaks, and for good reason.
The director is responsible for making sure every aspect of the production is executed properly to ensure that the project is on time, on budget and that the sights and sounds that make it to the screen fulfill the needs of the script and evoke the desired response of the viewer. The director is responsible for managing every detail of the production, and this comes with a lot of pressure.
To accomplish all of these goals, a good director must be confident, efficient and prepared. If you’ve ever worked as a crew member, you may know how frustrating it can be to work under a director who lacks these three characteristics. Without mastery of these key disciplines, time and money are quickly wasted and the quality of the production may be compromised.
Many wise persons have questioned whether confidence is a result of competency or vice versa. The director must have both. The director must arrive at the shoot ready and able to make decisions with confidence in the heat of the moment. The set is not the time or place to be indecisive. Indecision on set can be catastrophic; plunging the entire process into chaos. The director, therefore, needs to be the most prepared and well-informed person on the set. He or she needs to know the script inside and out. This requires more than reading it beforehand; it necessitates studying everything from camera setups, to number of locations, to blocking, to continuity and the intonation and energy with which each actor delivers lines. Managing a shoot requires great attention to detail and the ability to approach a production with a strategic plan for shooting. A director can net great savings in time and cost with the efficiency of a well-thought-out shot plan.
The director, therefore, needs to be the most prepared and well-informed person on the set. He or she needs to know the script inside and out.
The director must also own quality control — pushing to shoot multiple takes when necessary to capture the perfect scene, but also keeping track of the time required to complete the day’s entire shot list. This is especially important when dealing with available daylight, limited access to shoot locations and travel time to move people and equipment from one location to another.
The director must understand and work within the limitations of the equipment used. Some cameras are notorious for overheating and require periodic pauses for them to cool. Some crews are limited by digital storage capacity and must plan for breaks to transfer footage to larger drives. The director needs to be prepared for such occurrences and allow time for them. Likewise the director must be aware of and remain sensitive to the human factor of making video. Actors and crew members can only be pushed so hard for so long before needing a break.
Ultimately, the director needs to lead with authority. Not by lording power over others as a dictator might, but by owning the details of the production in a way that gives everyone involved complete confidence in their leader. Leading with this type of authority sets everyone up for success.
Matthew York is Videomaker's Publisher/Editor.