Michael’s Movie Mentions: The Film Director’s Job

Have you ever wondered what it takes to make a movie? Whenever we watch movies, we usually don’t think of what goes into the making of it. We enjoy talking about and watching the actors, alot of the time, of course, as they are in the spotlight. But what about the camera man, the guy who does the music, the stunts, who made the set, the props? Who, especially, is the ‘man upstairs’–the guy who planned everything?

Michael's Movie Mentions- A Film Director's Job on Tea with Tumnus

I have been long interested in films in general–first acting, then directing and acting, and I am also thinking of doing both as a job. As a result, I’ve read some things on the subjects, and have been interested in both. Stories narrated in movies arouse our curiosity, they bend our emotions, cause us to root for the main character–maybe the villain–and overall, engage our feelings in the whole narration, start to finish. And the only person you can say is the most responsible for the achievement of good drama like this, in a good movie, is the director, which is the topic of my post.

As Nicholas Proferes explains in his book “Film Directing Fundamentals”, the Film Director must inhabit two types of responsibilities: managerial tasks, and artistic tasks.

Managerial Tasks:

Among the managerial tasks of a director are: scheduling dates for various recitals, lighting tests and actual filming. The director must also meet those deadlines. Before and on set, the director must work efficiently with his film crew to achieve the visual goal he has designed from his readings of the script. Everything on the set during shooting must run as smoothly as possible, and it is up to the director to coordinate everything. As Wikipedia says: “excellent communication skills are a must.” The Director ‘directs’, and is usually number one in command to how things are  filmed…with the exception of the studio who funds the movie. Of course, there are always more exceptions to such cases. For example, an inexperienced director in a larger budget film may not have complete authority, whereas a seasoned Hollywood director in a production of a  major feature film will likely have the final say in most if not all issues…remember, though, the studio is usually the exception to this.

Artistic Tasks:

Among the artistic tasks of a director are: reading the script, interpreting the script, framing scenes, choosing actors, staging camera placements, and working with the Director of Photography to apply his [the Director’s] vision to the set. I’ll flesh this out a bit. The director, upon receiving the script, will read it. Then he will read it again. Ideas and images will form in his mind from these first readings of the script. Once he has ‘made sure’ of these ideas, he will frame them. Basically, framing is writing down/drawing the images the director feels the camera should capture at any given moment of the film.

Communication with the Director of Photography is the foremost in all communications the Director must have. This is because the Director of Photography must understand the Director’s authoritative vision. This vision includes: general ideas on lighting, if the director has interest in this (he should), where the camera will be placed, what lenses for which scenes will be used, etc. Of course, this is for the ‘technical’ director, who knows his equipment, and how to use it. The DP (Director of Photography) can then translate this vision to actual practice. Of course, the Director should listen to any advice the DP might have, especially if the director is non technical.

The two most important decisions a director can make are related to his artistic instincts: choosing the script, and choosing the actors. It is mentioned in Film Directing Fundamentals that if you choose a good script, and cast good actors, then you’re good directors!

To sum things up, the Director is the most, if not one of the most, important figure responsible for the production of a film. But not only production; the director is involved with the film from beginning to end, or, from preproduction to post-production. He/she is the ‘creative driving force’ of a film. The director cannot merely artistically envision and create and choose actors, scripts, camera placements, etc. The director must also be experienced with the business side of the film industry: communication, scheduling, organization, and more.

The main thing I would like to get across is this: Stories exist in many forms. They are understandable to us through the written word, through oral stories, and through the theater. And they are also brought to us through visuals in a film, captured by a camera. Before the story was captured by a camera, though, it was first in the form of a script. There must be a translator between script and camera. Between words and visuals. And one of the director’s most essential jobs is being that translator. A director doesn’t come up with the story, unless he/she is also the screenwriter. The director comes up with how and what the camera will capture in order to tell the story.

Collage of Directors on Tea with Tumnus (1)

Do you have any questions or comments on any specifics? If so, please comment below.

Bibliography:

Proferes, Nicholas T. Film Directing Fundamentals: See Your Film Before Shooting. Burlington: Focal Press, 2005. Paperback.

“Film Director.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 2015.

“The Film Director.” The Film Director. Media College, n.d. Web. 2015.

“Film Reference.” Responsibilities. Film Reference, n.d. Web. 2015.

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