Archive for June 2006

Movie Diaries 16

June 22, 2006

Directing: A Brief Tutorial

  • Arrive on the set when you say you’ll arrive on the set. Have your shooting schedule, notes, and script with you.
  • Have the set ready before the actors get there, especially if it’s a night shoot. Have your lights set, your cameras and camera operators ready to go. Don’t leave your actors waiting for four hours while you figure out what you’re doing.
  • The time between “Action!” and “Cut!” should be uninterrupted unless the scene is a complete train wreck, in which case, back up and start over. You cannot jump in, give the actors direction, and then restart at that point and expect to get usable footage, especially if what you’re filming is supposed to be documentary. In the glossary at the end of this handbook you will find “Action!”; “Cut!”; “That’s a wrap!”; “Quiet on the set, please!”; “We need more blood on him…”; “How can you be out of bullets?”; and even “Bill, what the fuck was that?”

    You will not find, “Pause!” Anywhere.

A typical day on set.

EXTERIOR. THE RIVER. DAYTIME.

KATE, MURPHY, THE SCHOLAR, AND THE GUNSLINGER ARE
STANDING ON THE SHORE. KATE HOLDS A SMALL CLAY
HEAD, “THE ARTIFACT”.

KATE
So, what do these markings mean?

MURPHY
That glyph there is “head”…there, “water” or “river”.
“Head” under “water”.

ALL TURN TO LOOK AT THE RIVER.

KATE
It can’t be that easy.

BILL
(voiceover)
Occam’s Razor, Kate.

DIRECTOR
Pause!

ALL
???

DIRECTOR
Bill, need you to say that a little louder.

BILL
(voiceover)
We’re going to redo all my dialog in post, aren’t we?

DIRECTOR
Oh, shit, yeah, that’s right. Okay, everyone..?
3…2…1…UN-PAUSE!

KATE HANDS THE STATUE TO MURPHY.

KATE
Here, hold this a minute.

WITH THE SUDDEN REALIZATION THAT SHE NEEDS TO GET THE
STATUE IN THE WATER, KATE BEGINS REMOVING HER GEAR.
AS SHE DOES SO, THE STRAP OF HER BAG GETS HUNG UP ON
HER BELT BUCKLE.

KATE
Damn!

DIRECTOR
Pause!

ALL
???

DIRECTOR
Gunslinger, can you help her with that..? Ok, thanks,
back to where you were…and…3..2…1…UN-PAUSE!

MURPHY
(to the director)
You know, when you restart the camera, Gunslinger
will have moved.

DIRECTOR
He moved back.

MURPHY
Yeah, I know, but his position has shifted. You’ll be able
to see it.

DIRECTOR
That’s okay, we’ll fix it in post. We’ll cut to something
else.

MURPHY
Cut to what? You’ve only got one camera…

DIRECTOR
(ignoring MURPHY)

Everybody ready? 3…2…1…UN-PAUSE!

Bill
(voiceover)
Shouldn’t we start over?

DIRECTOR
It okay with you, Bill, if I get to be the director for
a while?

Okay. Here we go. Scene 4, riverbank, picking up…3…
2…1…UN-PAUSE!

KATE REMOVES HER JACKET AND KIT BAG, AND WADES INTO THE RIVER,
GUNSLINGER CLOSE BEHIND, GUN DRAWN AS IF TO COVER HER. SHE
IS FRANTIC TO GET ACROSS BEFORE THE STORM BREAKS, AND MOVES
WITH ASTONISHING PURPOSE.  GUNSLINGER HAS TO REALLY MOVE
TO KEEP UP WITH HER.

DIRECTOR
Pause!

KATE FREEZES, HER MOMENTUM BROKEN. DIRECTOR CONFERS
QUICKLY WITH THE CAMERAMAN, WHO SHAKES HIS HEAD.

ALL
???

DIRECTOR
No, sorry, my fault! 3…2…1…UN-PAUSE!

And so on. I don’t have the footage in front of me, but as nearly as I can remember this is a verbatim retelling of the scene, and is more of a script than we ever saw. We only got one take because, at the conclusion of the scene, the two principle characters were wet and spattered with mud.

The footage is damn near unusable.

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