Bri Castellini: Directors, What Do You Do Again? – @brisworld

Some film director doing something the unions don’t allow

by Bri Castellini

Hello, and welcome to “What Do You Do Again?” a series of posts profiling different film production roles because many in the web series community don’t come from film school and don’t really know who all makes up a bustling film set. I certainly didn’t; in fact, for the longest time I thought a producer and a director were the same. And to be honest, I still don’t really know what the heck a gaffer is. Apparently it’s not Samwise Gamgee, which comes as a bit of a disappointment.

Every week, I’ll pick one production role to profile, so without further ado:

What does a director do? Lightning round:

  1. Works with and is in charge of all cast and crew to tell the story.
  2. Is ultimately responsible for getting the different shots and scenes needed to complete the project.
  3. Gets to say “action” and “cut.”

Misconceptions:

The director is solely in charge of the shot list, or every angle the camera needs to film the scenes from. In fact, as with most parts of a director’s job, the shot list is a collaboration between the director and the director of photography (DP). While having an idea of what you want a scene to look like is important, the DP will be able to guide the director towards particular shots to make the best version of the project possible.

The director tells the actors how to say their lines. While some directors will have their own process, in general, it is not the director’s job to tell an actor the exact cadence and performance of the scene, or giving them a “line reading.” An actor is not a puppet, and a director is not putting an Imperius Curse on them. Actors are there to perform, to breathe life into a scene and a story, and their interpretation of a scene and a character is a vital part of the process, just as a DP is a vital part of building a shot list.

Jamie McKeller @redshirtjamie , creator of the show I Am Tim Helsing1, has a lot of feelings about this particular directing style. “From the point of view of a director, if I’m not happy with a performance from one of the cast it’s my job to collaborate and discuss until everything clicks. If a director gets to a point where they’re acting it out, they’ve failed. Also, the actor likely can’t emulate what the director so the performance is no longer their own, but a replica of somebody else’s interpretation.”

Actress Gilda Sue Rosenstern agrees, adding “Filmmaking and [theater] are collaborative, they are not dictatorships like novel-writing.”

We actually have a whole article about line readings, with alternative directing tricks to try instead, so check that out here.

The director runs the set. This is a half misconception, because they’re only really in charge once the cameras start rolling. It’s generally not the director’s job to corral actors, to make sure the lights are being set up, to keep time, or to make sure that craft services have arrived. The non-creative logistics of a set are left to a production manager and the assistant director, both roles of which we’ll cover in another article.

Common mistakes:

Having all the answers. This might seem counter-intuitive, but let me explain. As we’ve already established, while a director is absolutely the captain of the ship during filming, their job is made possible through effective communication and collaboration. One of the best ways to win the good faith of the cast and crew is to ask for input and give them the space they need to make their own choices, especially in areas where you’re less confident, and. If a choice isn’t what you’re looking for, a director can step in and make adjustments, but in general, if the director has all the answers, they aren’t leaving enough up to the rest of their cast and crew, and they’re also a liar, because no one has all the answers. “Don’t let insecurity or ego prevent you from taking good ideas and growing as an artist,” adds Andrew Williams, director of Brains and nearly a decade of other film and theater projects.

Openly getting frustrated. Alternatively: spreading gossip, complaining to cast and crew about other cast and crew, or letting on that something has gone wrong. Essentially, the director’s mood is the mood of the set, and if the mood of the set is anything other than “productive and excited,” you have trouble. There is nothing more uncomfortable than a bunch of people stuck in a small room with lots of expensive equipment and a hostile scent in the air. “People will do better work for you faster if they feel safe and energized about the project.” Andrew agrees.

Making it about you. Remember why you’re there. “I think a lot of young directors feel the need to cover every inch of a finished product with their fingerprints,” says Andrew Williams. “If the visual metaphors, artsy camera angles, and 38 minute tracking shots help tell the story to its fullest, then go for it. If you’re doing it to show off how good of a director you are, then you’re not making art, you’re making a reel.”

Showing up unprepared. Sometimes, this mistake manifests in not being involved enough in pre-production. While a lot of the logistical planning isn’t exactly a director’s purview (finding locations, for example), they should still be involved. Additionally, a director should have an idea of what they want, from a performance perspective, before arriving on set, and should be able to communicate effectively.

How can I learn to be a director?

When I was planning my directorial debut, after being just an actor, writer, and producer, Andrew Williams loaned me his copy of Notes On Directing by Frank Hauser and Russell Reich, which proved vital. Though the book is written with theater in mind, most of the concepts, all of which are numbered and concise, are applicable to film, and all of them are applicable to getting used to the idea of calling yourself a director.

You are the obstetrician.

You are not the parent of this child we call the play. You are present at its birth for clinical reasons, like a doctor or a midwife. Your job most of the time is simply to do no harm. When something does go wrong, however, your awareness that something is awry —and your clinical intervention to correct it —can determine whether the child will thrive or suffer, live or die.”

-Notes on Directing

Another way to learn directing is to simply watch other directors, and watch a variety of them if possible, with a variety of different backgrounds and trainings. Some of the best tricks I learned for my own directing came from observing other directors. If you can’t find any sets to shadow, watch behind-the-scenes footage or interviews.

Final Thoughts

The director is ultimately responsible for what gets filmed and making creative decisions on set, but they are, at their core, just another member of the team. Who are some of your favorite directors? Let us know in the comments, and if you’ve been on a set with a particularly amazing (or particularly bad) director, we’d love to hear the story!


Bri Castellini is an indie filmmaker and Community Liaison at Stareable, our favorite web series hub. This article was originally published on the Stareable Community Forum. Watch Bri’s award-winning web series, BrainsHERE!

John Ostrander: The Family of Sociopaths

This gallery contains 4 photos.

by John Ostrander Commercials are the point of commercial TV. I realize that, for those of you who do only streaming services, this concept may seem a bit foreign, but your monthly fees take the place of paid commercials, assuming the streaming service isn’t double-dipping. Advertisers buy time to pitch products and/or services and/or whatever […]

David Perlis: FIND YOUR STORY

Found on the Interwebs

by David Perlis

And stick to it.

That’s the moral, and it’s what I’m trying to remind myself as I move forward on my new project. These things always sound easy, but without a Post-It on every surface of your abode, reminding you what your story’s heart is, you may find yourself with great plot and great characters, but they’re bound to fizzle out at some point. That’s what I think, anyway.

I like examining Breaking Bad. (By the way, my exhibits are almost always Breaking Bad. It just works, man.)

Breaking Bad sets you up with some pretty brilliant stakes: terminal cancer on one end, and the threat of prison on the other. Not a lot of wiggle room for good things to happen here. But how Vince Gilligan and his writers deal with the cancer part is what I find really interesting. Do they give Walt life scare after life scare with his diagnosis? Do they bring in his ex girlfriend whom he left at the altar to be his head doc? Accidentally give him an infected blood transfusion, or mix his chart up with someone else’s? Does Walt have an allergic reaction to the meds, which leaves him in a wheelchair? I admit, all of these things sound a bit “jump-the-sharky,” but they would definitely ratchet up the drama.

Nope. Instead, they hardly address the cancer at all. Sure, a few scenes in the early episodes, ’cause you can’t not talk about it, but the writers (being pros) knew what this show was—and more importantly, wasn’t—about.

It’s about reaching the breaking point. It’s about our ability to justify the unjustifiable. It’s about doing the wrong things for the right reasons. It’s about our need to be important. To be respected. To be good. It’s about every man being capable of absolute evil. It’s about “turning Mr. Chips into Scarface.” (Which was how Mr. G. always pitched it.) It’s not about overcoming cancer. Walt’s diagnosis in ep. 1 was a great catalyst for morphing him into Heisenberg, but that’s all it ever needed to be.

Now, if you were in Breaking Bad’s writer’s room, would you have intuitively left the cancer thread by the side of the road way back when? I know I wouldn’t have. Long story short: That, Mom, is is why I’ve got “Ignore the cancer” Post-Its papering my toilet tank.


David Perlis is a screenwriter and former People’s Pilot Finalist doing his best to break into the even Bigger Time. This post first appeared on his very helpful blog.

Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path With SUPERNATURAL’S Davy Perez, Part 1

A series of interviews with hard-working writers – by another hard-working writer!

by Kelly Jo Brick

Aspiring writers often wonder how the pros got where they are. The truth is, everyone’s story is different, but there are some common elements: dedication, persistence, hard work and not giving up.

Persistence and positive attitude were major influences in the development of Davy Perez’s career in entertainment.

Born and raised in East LA, and without much support for his writing and creative interests, Davy found himself getting into trouble, being kicked out of four different high schools because of his rambunctious and rebellious behavior.

Participation in a sketch group led to him studying acting where he eventually began to write sketch comedy before he turned his focus to writing drama. His first job was as a staff writer for the highly acclaimed TV show AMERICAN CRIME and he now writes for the CW series, SUPERNATURAL.

WHEN DID YOU FIRST KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER?

I would write as young as about ten or twelve. I would write silly little short stories. At 13, I started writing poetry, as I became a teenager with angst. As a musician, I would write song lyrics. I kinda call that passive writing. I wasn’t really engaging it the way a writer consciously has something to say. It was just things coming out of me that I needed to almost like exorcise my own emotions and inner demons.

I started acting in high school in school plays. After high school I was in a sketch comedy group and someone said that I should pursue this. I didn’t want to go to college. I was always an artistic kind of individual. In East LA, nobody, at that time, tells you that you can have a career as an artist if you train and study. Nobody says, you’re good at writing. You should go hone that. They tell you to get your high school diploma, go to college, become a teacher, doctor, lawyer or engineer. Those are all good livings to have. If you’re an artistic person, there isn’t quite the support system in the neighborhoods that I grew up in. Which I imagine is probably true for a lot of inner city kids.

Somewhere inside of me, that always rubbed me as wrong that I wasn’t getting support for the things I wanted to do, so I had to find a way to do them on my own.

WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO GET YOUR CREATIVE CAREER STARTED?

That’s where I linked up. That sketch group I was with was actually guys who were four or five years older than me. They thought I was funny and so they would use me for little things here and there. One of them told me there were acting schools I could go to. I went to the Stella Adler Academy. I was there for about a year and a half. From there I learned about the Playhouse West, which is a repertory school that at the time, James Franco was there. Scott Caan was there. It was like this cool place where all these known, name guys were coming out of. Jeff Goldblum was a teacher there. Funny enough, Mark Pellegrino was a teacher there, who is now on our show. I was part of that acting program for about four or five years.

At the advanced levels they start to have you write your own scenes. It was the first time where now me, as a creative person, was engaging writing with a mind for I need to tell a story. I need to have a scene. All the work I learned as an actor I still use as far as character arc, character spine, driving force behind moments and stuff like that.

I would say that the acting training has greatly influence not only my writing, but I’m also trying to be a multi-hyphenate and direct and that comes super handy.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST OVERALL JOB IN THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY?

I was a background extra. I did that for years because I just wanted to be on set and part of the industry. After a while I realized this isn’t a good path if I really wanted to be an actor. They don’t pluck a background person very often and you don’t move up.

What I did like is just being on set and watching the crews work. I would watch the director and DP have conversations about how they would approach a scene. Very often I was told to stand back and go back to holding.

Eventually I became a PA. Then I was meant to be on set. I really worked my way up through production and got to a point where I almost had a career as a production coordinator or production manager. That ultimately wasn’t where my heart was and so I decided to take a step back from that and find a way to work in a creative office.

I was lucky enough, I applied to a program at ABC called the Production Associates Program. I don’t know if it exists anymore. It used to be that they get like ten recent college graduates and they put them through different departments. Someone would go to finance and someone would go to backlot. The year I applied, was the first year they were going to have someone do the creative office stuff. I met a lot of really great people and a lot of the executives and I had some support, but I didn’t get in.

The woman who did get in, got hired full-time four months after the process. They called me up and said, “You were our number two. You were our alternate. Do you want to do the program still?”

That was my first real television job in the creative field. From that moment, I can definitely point a finger to that was how I was able to break onto this side of things and eventually make my way to be in a writing office.

WHAT’S SOME OF THE BEST ADVICE YOU RECEIVED WHILE STARTING OUT?

This goes for not just the career, but for pitching. Specifically someone gave me this advice for when trying to sell a piece of property and also selling yourself and I took it and applied it to everything else. His name is Rob Aft. He’s a marketing guy. He helped connect different people in the film world.

He said, “People love to work with their friends”. Everyone loves to hire their friend. They know that person. They trust that person. When you go into a room, make a friend. Make as many friends as you can. It may not be about the thing you that have in your lap that you’re trying to sell. It may not be about that immediate thing, but if it is, great. If it works out, great, but if they pass or if they’re not ready or if you’re not ready, make that friend. It absolutely was how I got the job on AMERICAN CRIME, because of how I carried myself.

I would make friends with everyone and be friendly and always have a positive outlook, a positive attitude. Absolutely having that open and positive kind of energy to me is key to how I’ve been able to get where I am.

Coming Soon: Davy Perez shares how he got his first writing job and offers insights on taking meetings, finding representation and pursuing your writing goals.


Kelly Jo Brick is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. She’s a television and documentary writer and producer, as well as a winner of Scriptapalooza TV and a Sundance Fellow. Read more about her HERE.

John Ostrander: Riding With The King

 by John Ostrander

Two Mondays ago was the 100th birthday of the King o’ Comics, Jack Kirby. The young’uns among you might not know the name (or maybe they do; I try not to be a fuddy-duddy most days) but Kirby was a force unparalleled in the comics medium. If you need a primer, Mike Gold wrote an excellent column about him.

Even if you know Marvel only from the movies, you owe him. Captain America? Jack. The X-Men? Jack. The Black Panther? Jack. The Avengers? Jack. And so on and so forth. And not just at Marvel; King Kirby seemed to be everywhere. And not just superheroes; he did Westerns, monsters, romance. And so on and so forth.

I met him in person exactly once.

The first thing I need to explain is that, before I became a professional writer in comics, I was a bonafide geek. Yeah, I still am.

One of the big thrills when I first started was that at conventions I could meet my heroes as a fellow professional. In theory. Not as a peer; that suggested I was an equal and that was not how I felt.

So – it’s early in my career and I’m working the First Comics booth at the Chicago Comicon along with my wife, Kim Yale. We were the only ones working the booth at that moment. It wasn’t in the main room and we weren’t getting much traffic.

Then this small group of people walk by, talking among themselves, and in the middle of it is Jack Kirby.

OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG!

(Point of historical accuracy: Back some 30 or so years ago when this story takes place, we never said “OMG!,” at least not in the Midwest. I just wanted to convey the impact of the moment in modern terms.)

Kim later said she watched me turn into a 14-year old fanboy complete with zits. I can’t imagine that was pleasant.

In the group, I spotted Julie Schwartz, himself a legend and an icon. There’d be no Silver Age DC without Julie. Possibly no modern comics industry.

I knew Julie a little through Mike Gold so I hiss at him, “Julie! Hey, Julie! Hey!”

Julie spots me and ambles over. “Hey, kid, how ya doin’?”

“Julie! Introduce me to the King!” I plead.

Julie looks at me like I’m demented and maybe, at the moment, I am. “It’s Jack,” he tells me. “Just go over and say hi.”

“No no no no no! I can’t I can’t I can’t! Don’t you see?! He’s the King!” “Hey, Julie! Help a guy out!”

Julie gives me a pitying look and says, “C’mon, kid.”

I walk over to the group with Julie and he does a nice intro of me. The King shakes my hand, says “HiHowareya.” I babble something about what an honor gee you’re my hero blah blah blah. And it’s over. The King and his group move on.

I wish I could say that I never washed that hand again but Kim would have insisted.

I doubt very much that the moment would have stayed with Jack Kirby but it has stayed with me in vivid detail for a couple of decades. Over the past few years, I’ve met some fans who treat me sort of like I treated Jack. (Trust me, gang; I’m not that impressive and I can give you references.) There was only one Jack Kirby and there will ever be only one Jack Kirby and he just turned 100.

Happy 100th, Jack. Long live the King.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. Don’t forget to read his most excellent blog at ComicMix, where this piece first appeared. You can learn more about John and his masterworks HERE

Web Series: ‘SIBS’ Goes Hollywood

by Dawn McElligott

What kind of a show would you and your sibling make?

Last month, real-life siblings, Kimberly and Bryan Scamman answered that question for themselves with a short film entitled, SUPER SECRET CANADIAN SPY MOVIE.

The movie is a version of the first season finale episodes of their web series, SIBS. The brother and sister duo screened the film at a promotional event at the Three Clubs in Hollywood on August 27th.

In addition to free admission, the audience was treated to photo ops with the stars, gratuitous grub, a comedy act, and then, finally, the screening of SUPER SECRET CANADIAN SPY MOVIE itself.

The Three Clubs is a fun, retro lounge on Vine Street where one could easily imagine the original, Frank Sinatra-led, rat pack hanging out.  Danny Jolles from CW’s Emmy Award-winning series CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND, warmed up the audience with some laughs. Well, more than some. Enough for Kimberly to gush, “Danny was a great fit for our content, and we were blessed to have him!”

Kimberly and Bryan pack a punch of pure silliness into their series as only two siblings can. For one thing, their biological bond created greater artistic freedom. For another, they’ve both studied martial arts, lending a physical, bordering-on-cartoonish slant to the action.

The real-life sibs are from a southern California family that moved around often before returning to Los Angeles. Kimberly was born in San Pedro, and her brother was born about two years later in Seattle. Upon return to Los Angeles, Kimberly attended the American Academy for Dramatic Arts in Hollywood.

The academy bestowed its prestigious Charles Jehlinger Award on Kimberly, who’s most recent work has been with the Noise and Vision Production Company and 2 Kings Productions.  Bryan developed his acting acumen by working on such films as HELL HOLE: DARK HARVEST (2016).

The co-creators of SIBS grew up with a love for physical comedy. “We both really loved Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, and David Spade,” said Kimberly.

The old school influence is most evident at one point in the film where brother and sister enter a bedroom closet to find a secret passageway. This farcical scene combines the wonder of THE LION, the WITCH and the WARDROBE with the zaniness of THE MONKEES. And why not? Kimberly told me point blank, that she has  watching re-runs of such classic TV shows as I LOVE LUCY,GET SMART, and, yes, THE MONKEES has been a lifelong and not-so-secret passion.

Kimberly also gives plenty of credit to Wham Social (@whamsocial) for the-fun filled promotional screening at The Three Clubs and for promoting SIBS in cyberspace as well.

Check out the SIBS trailer:

Lovers of campy comedy can see new episodes of SIBS on Sunday evenings at 8 pm Pacific Time on YouTube

And don’t forget the show’s presence on Facebook

And those interested in knowing more about Wham Social can find it HERE

Can’t forget the credits, yeah?

Created by and Starring: Kimberly Niccole and Bryan Scamman Produced by: Broster Productions Editing and SFX by: Matt Ryan SPECIAL THANKS! Sponsors: Deeva Boutique bit.ly/DeevaBoutique Stephanie Rojas Dominique Rodriguez and Take It From Me Show ( bit.ly/TakeitFromMe )


Dawn McElligott is a an award-winning writer and filmmaker in Los Angeles by way of Philadelphia and other points East. You can learn more about her HERE

Gerry Conway Remembers Len Wein

Len Wein and some actor Len’s brainchild, Wolverine, helped make famous

NOTE FROM LB: Len Wein passed away Sunday. You may not know the name, but Len was an integral part of the Marvel Universe as well as humanity at large. On Twitter, Joss Whedon  set out the facts: “Co-created Wolverine & the new X-men. Co-kickstarted the modern comic book era with its most powerful metaphor. And more. RIP Len Wein.” But as far as I’m concerned, it’s the human side that counts. Here’s how Gerry Conway puts it:

by Gerry Conway

Mr. Wein & Mr. Conway

My friend Len Wein is gone.

I’m trying to process this. I’ve known Len since I was fourteen years old. More than half a century. He was as much a part of my life as my own family. He felt like a brother to me, and I loved him like a brother – with all the complicated emotions of brotherhood. We were friends, rivals, collaborators, roommates, cohorts in a generational changing of the guard, fanboys, old farts. At times we were very close, at other times we were almost enemies. We hurt each other, helped each other. We had ups and downs and we stood together and apart. But he was always there, someone I looked up to, someone I tried to emulate, a man I loved, admired, envied, and respected.

Now he’s gone. There’s a hole in my life. I knew it was coming – anyone who spent time with Len these last few years knew it was coming – but it’s still a shock. The world feels like an open wound. I’ve been fighting tears for the last hour. I understand what the word bereft means. I’m bereft.

My heart goes out to Christine. No man could have had a more loving and stronger partner than Len had in Christine. I marvel at her strength, her will, her love. She was a fierce fighter on his behalf. Len was lucky to have her with him for so many years, and especially these last few years.

My friend is gone.

I’m heartbroken.


Gerry Conway is one of the Kings of TV and film and comic book writing and also one of our Beloved Leader Larry Brody’s longest-lasting and closest friends. Everybody who comes to TVWriter™ should be reading his insightful blog, where this article first appeared. Learn more about Gerry HERE.