What challenges does a director face in filmmaking?

November 12, 2023

I invite you to spend the next 2 minutes and 42 seconds stepping into the shoes of a director (I’m not suggesting a career change, just an exploration of what a director truly does – a question I often receive from advertising clients). Cinematographers have all the luck! Their work on the film set is tangible and easily comprehensible to all.

Imagine holding a SCRIPT in your hands:

Two tired bartenders, Ana and Gertrude, are clearing tables. Ana’s tired eyes scan the tip jar. She’s surprised not only by a few coins but also by a set of car keys. Gertrude watches from the bar as Ana picks up and inspects the car keys. Ana presses the key fob, and her face lights up, not just from astonishment but from the dazzling lights of a luxurious sports car outside. She glances nervously at Gertrude, takes off her apron, and rushes outside. Gertrude watches as Ana jumps behind the wheel and speeds away in her new car.
OFFSCREEN VOICE: It doesn’t always work out, but we can always improve our chances – play BIM BAM lottery.
We see a scene where Gertrude buys a BIM BAM lottery ticket with a smile.

With a script like this, you only need to navigate three action stages (and utilize one very SECRET skill).

PRE-PRODUCTION: First, evaluate if the script is solid. Maybe Tom and Oscar would better suit the lottery audience instead of Ana and Gertrude? Or perhaps the car should be one that you can genuinely win in the BIM BAM lottery? You need to paint your VISION for the team. The producer needs your cues for finding locations. Should the café be dimly lit? Or perhaps a loft café with large windows? You also need to convey your vision to the cinematographer. How should it be filmed? Perhaps with a one long take? Or with wide-angle lenses and quick shots to enhance the comedic effect? Immediate directions are also needed for the set designer – should the café be as sterile as a pedant’s thrice-washed banana or more like a place where a vacuum cleaner has just exploded? You should also promptly inform the makeup artist, whether you want natural makeup or to ease the actors’ job, making them appear as victims of a great afterparty. Wait, what about the music? What do you request from the composer? Should reagy hits play in the café? Or should we create an atmosphere with French music? Guidelines need to be established for lighting, the sound operator, the costume stylist, the studio recording the offscreen voice, the editor, and the actors.

PRODUCTION (or filming) is the shortest phase of advertisement creation. Working with actors is just a dessert, which also requires preparation. If you want good, realistic acting, it’s not enough to tell the actors to “act happy/sad/angry…” A good director uses a directorial script and their emotional intelligence to create an environment in which the actor doesn’t have to pretend to be something they’re not. But that’s not your sole task on the film set. You need to ensure that the entire team tells the SAME STORY.

POST-PRODUCTION: I’ll briefly describe this stage, but it’s often the longest part of the process. During editing, you’ll need to convey your vision to the new team – the editor, sound designer, colorist. Unfortunately, these professionals will have to not only do their job but also correct the mistakes of other colleagues from the shoot. And you’ll need to make sure that everyone tells the same story, preventing the comedy from turning into a tragedy.

Now, let’s talk about the SECRET skill. If a director arrives on set just to do his job, the project is unlikely to succeed. A highly secretive and crucial skill of a director is the ability to achieve the goal when force majeure situations arise on set, and everything falls apart with no possibility of reshooting. Perhaps during filming, it turns out that Ana and Gertrude know each other, and Ana is dating Gertrude’s ex (resulting in their inability to work together)? Or maybe an orchestra starts rehearsing near your filming location, making sound recording impossible? Rarely does a film set go without a multitude of challenges, but a good director doesn’t just come to do what’s planned, but also confidently greets the challenges. Maintaining calm and balancing adrenaline even in stressful situations can open doors to creative solutions.

Directed by Albinas Kirkilas

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