Easy Shoot - Bad Film

"Easy Shoot - Bad Film, Hard Shoot - Good Film." I don't know where the saying came from, but Fred Thompson mentioned it and I have been thinking about it.

For years I have debated with Carroll Ballard, Caleb Deschanel and others about how to get the best film during shooting. They feel that making it physically difficult produces better film. I have to agree and also that conflict, discussions and problem to solve can also help facilitate a better end product. An easy shoot just following the script can end up with a barely OK finished product.

In my TV commercial days I always started each day with an ambitious set-up to get the crew's juices flowing. I always tried to get the absolutely necessary shots done early to allow for time to try shots discovered during the day. Often while shooting the necessary shots, better ways to express what we wanted to say evolved. TV commercials usually had more flexibility than telling a long story with a tight schedule. There is a disadvantage while creating a storyboard and shooting schedule of not having all the real production elements in front of you, Scouting with a script and story board helps, but having the actors, props, cameras, and technical crew on the location with the pressure of getting a day's work done can produce better film. It is necessary that the crew and cast are cooperative and want to make a good film too.

Being flexible is important. A director willing to listen to ideas and solutions to problems from his team will benefit from their enthusiasm because they will feel that they are part of the process. This is a situation that usually develops with teams that have worked together before on other projects.

The worse situation is when the crew doubts that the director knows what he is doing but that they, with their infinite wisdom and experience, do. They are only too happy to let the director screw up to prove their point.

There are directors who refuse to ask for help from their team because of a fear of looking stupid. I have found that directors and key crew members who blow up on the set are usually out of control of THEIR JOB and let it out by blaming the crew, the cast, the weather, the writer, the equipment or whoever is handy for their own failure.

A director had better have enough experience and a very, very well developed film in his mind for a film to end up as a great film without creative help during the shoot, There are a few filmmakers in the world that can envision a whole project in their own head and pull it off. The rest of us best use the combined efforts of a willing team to flesh-out the director's basic ideas. There is an art of both the director leading a crew and the crew helping the director make a better film. A bit of humble attitude on both parts can work where demands, humiliation, arrogance or screaming doesn't work.

Film directors, DPs and keys of any category are not immune to the human frailty of power. Politicians, preachers, rock stars, film stars and, yes film directors can become arrogant with a little fame and power. During the old studio system days people had to pay their dues and work their way up the ladder learning to be humble and be diplomatic within their level. If they were talented and kept their noses clean they could rise to the top. Today with the instant fame possible with TV commercials, rock videos and low budget blockbusters, the director can rise too fast and loose control of his ego in the process.

There is also a fine line between a truly competent director acting humble and being perceived as inexperienced because he acts humble. Some people expect pomp from the boss and don't respect humble. Others, often more secure in their own job, will respect directors who act humble, ask for help and welcome creative participation.

Read Set Etiquette in Intermediate Production Techniques

© Copyright 2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.