Directing tips for a first time director?

I’m preparing to direct my first thing (just a student film, but still!!) that I also wrote… any advice?? I’m not as confident with technical stuff. Actors, no problem. But blocking? Camera angles? Ehhh…

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@OSTSG @DarekKowal @Alex_LeMay @Thomas_Tulak @Andrewdwilliams1989 @mintypineapple Any other directors out there? I just realized I don’t actually know what, specifically, y’all do! Wonder if we should start a thread on that…

Anyways, Blair, I am in a similar boat of being way more confident about actors than angles when it comes to directing, and one of my biggest pieces of advice is to rely on your team! My DP had a huge influence over the visual choices in my directorial debut- we would meet up a few times before the shoot to talk over shots and the script and he’d make suggestions and I’d make suggestions and by the end we had an actionable plan that I was totally confident about. Filmmaking isn’t a solitary pursuit, so don’t treat it as such!

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Oh I actually did just read @DarekKowal’s new post about blocking and directing- very helpful!!! And good tip! Can’t wait to hear what other people say :slight_smile:

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I’d say really decide what the film is about/ what you want the audience to understand with each shot. Film is visual and the goal is to be able to convey the story through images, as if the sound were off.

If you can, make sure you have a trusty DP who can assist with lighting/photography, and go through the script ahead of time, breaking down every camera angle and choice.

Remember, your NUMBER ONE JOB as director is: GET THIS THING DONE.

Time is always a factor so, if necessary, tell the story in as few shots as possible and make sure you end the shoot with editable footage.

Good luck!

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ALSO! Hopefully this article will be helpful as well:

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first, congrats on your first project! keep us informed on the outcome, I’m sure we would all love to see it! I’ll say you’ll learn so much more from the hands on experience of doing it than you thought. As it’s your first project, I’d say the most important thing for you to focus on is the vision. you should be able to see it all play out in your head. That way you can get all the necessary pieces so you can put it all together.

as far as camera angles and what not, there is one basic rule I recommend you follow, one tip that will help you out a lot. the 180 degree rule, which I explain in this video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMNNeerjlQs

Break a leg!

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Thank you! This is really helpful, and I love your color contrast and directing post you just put up! Thanks for the tag @Bri_Castellini :slight_smile:

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Thanks!

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I’m really bad about trying to do everything myself. But you should definitely be open to the idea of having a crew. But if you don’t, you can still get something made. I know I have. I will say if this is your first project, it might not turn out as good as you imagine it in your head. First projects rarely do. But it’s a stepping stone to learn from. And you’ll have a finished project which is awesome. I’ve become less concerned with being a perfectionist and just learn what you can from what you’re doing and move on. Not saying you shouldn’t try to make a good film, but a lot of people will get stuck trying to make this one thing perfect, when they could be moving on to bigger and better stuff. I think it’s better to keep growing and experimenting and trying things, rather than obsessing over making something perfect and never actually doing anything.

That was rambly, but I hope it was helpful?

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So much great advice already in this thread. My 2 cents are, know what your shooting (the shots you need to tell the story) before getting on set. Don’t just make it up as you go. Principle photography should be about collecting the assets you already know you need to make the picture. To echo @DerekKowel your job is to get this thing to the finish line while maintaining your vision. Be economical in your shot list and trust your crew… and yes, your DP will be a major partner in making all this happen so be sure you both work well together. Break a leg and be sure to have fun. You’ve got some great resources in this community so ask for help when you need it as you just did!

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This is great. Very well explained. Perfect resource for newcomers and a great refresher for us old-timers.

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Some great advice here, and as an added word of encouragement, if you follow these, you are already a step ahead of a lot of paid/branded productions I’ve worked on. :wink:

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Some of this may not apply to you since you said you’re ok with the handling actors thing but these are the tips I gave a buddy directing his first thing:

-Patience, young grasshopper! Be (or at least fake being) as patient as you possibly can. I can pretty much guarantee you that you will be very, very short on time and constantly behind schedule and every delay, whether it’s an actor having problems remembering their lines or a missing microphone battery, has a tendency to try your patience. Try to relax as best you can, take a deep breath and know that you will just be behind schedule no matter how mad you get. Nobody wants to work for a grumpy asshole. Of course…

-On the flip side: try your best to be as assertive and “boss like” as you can. A nice boss mind you but still, you are the one in charge and you need to project as much. As cliche as it sounds, you aren’t there to make friends. I know that sounds counterproductive to the patience one but it’s a tightrope walk. You want to encourage artistic freedom and a sense of fun/play but you also don’t want to go home empty handed because everybody fucked around all day. Constantly remind yourself for the reason you are there: to create the best possible finished product.

-Speaking of “being the boss”…make sure you are prepared for it. Everybody will come to you with questions. From “how should I deliver “I’m sorry”…should I put the inflection on “I’m” or on the “sorry”?” to “where do you want the camera for this? How many angles do you want?” to “which color towel should he walk out of the shower with?” (seriously)…know the answers ahead of time as best you can. Nothing instills less confidence in an actor/crew member than if it seems like the “person with all the answers” has none of them. Of course you won’t actually have all the answers all the time so just be good at thinking on your feet and pretending that’s what you wanted the whole time. Practice saying things like “no, not that fake mustache, the other one” with the utmost confidence. Be as detail orientated as you can stand/afford.

-Probably the most important thing I would say is just respect everybody, treat them well and try to relax as much as you can. I guess that’s kind of the same as the first one but it really can be a super fun and rewarding experience to put together a fake world for a bit and be the ringleader of your band of misfits. Try to focus on the fun parts and not how goddamn stressful it is.

Also, I think I said this in that mess of words earlier but always keep focused on the end goal. Try to edit everything you are shooting in your head together as best you can. When you visualize a scene does it cut to a close-up on a certain line? If so then make sure you get that close-up. Even if it’s 3am and everybody wants to go home…don’t settle. Get what you need to put together the vision you see in your head as best you can. Of course compromises will have to be made and everything won’t be perfect but know what you can and can’t live without getting before going in as much as possible.

Last but not least: you will fuck something up. I guarantee it. Everybody does. Take it in stride and learn from it and don’t beat yourself up for making a “rookie mistake” because well, you’re a rookie.

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Everyone above’s advice is amazing! One other thing you have to keep in mind, coming from one writer-director to another. You write things one way and envision them, but on set it may not always be able to work out like this. Maybe actors aren’t off book, maybe the lighting is not what you envisioned, maybe the set doesn’t look like how you wrote it. So above all BE FLEXIBLE. Be ready to adapt and get this made. Maybe you won’t like it, but just keep moving. Or maybe you will! Amazing things can happen that you didn’t expect. Best of luck!!

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Requoting for emphasis, because THIS! :point_up_2:t3:

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