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!

What’s the Difference Between a Cartoon & a Meme?

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Theoretically, we suppose, a cartoon is meant to be funny, first, and insightful second. While a meme is all insight. And yet…. Enjoy your creative journey! Write that novel!

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 Writing Contest Closes in 6 Weeks!

Over $20,000 in PRIZES & ENTRY BONUSES!

FREE FEEDBACK! 

FREE STORYTELLING PATTERNS E-BOOK!

SPECIAL BONUS AWARD – All Entries Eligible!

We’re zeroing in on the closing date for PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017, the 26th running of TVWriter™’s signature writing contest.

You can tell because we’re bringing out the big gun – the PEOPLE’S PILOT Countdown Clock. Because as this is being written there are only 6 weeks are left till PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 closes to entries. So it’s time to get very, very serious about this.

You’ve got from now until the very last minute (11:59 PM) of November 1, 2017 to pay your entry fee of $50 ($35 for a web series) and upload your pilot script for any series intended for any electronic media – including of course TV – of any length and on any subject.

TVWriter™’s PEOPLE’S PILOT COMPETITION has been running online since the year 2000 – the dawn of the 21st Century.

In recent years, winners and high placing entrants have gobbled up a ton of TV writing work, including TV movie and mini-series writing and series staff jobs on cable, satellite, interweb, and broadcast TV, including:

LETHAL WEAPON
WESTWORLD
MOM
NARCOS
TIME AFTER TIME
GREY’S ANATOMY
THE LEFTOVERS
BASTARD EXECUTIONER
ANIMAL PRACTICE
KILLER WOMEN
NTSF:SD:SUV
GIRLFRIENDS
FILTHY PREPPY TEENS
MELROSE PLACE

SNEAKY PETE
CHICAGO PD
CHICAGO FIRE
PERSON OF INTEREST
THE WALKING DEAD
RIZZOLI AND ISLES
COLONY
ONCE UPON A TIME
THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES
SMALLVILLE
ROME
PRIVATE PRACTICE
SNOWFALL

We’d love to see you join them!

Find out more about all aspects of THE PEOPLE’S PILOT HERE

Portrait of the Cartoonist as Philosopher – Grant Snider

Yes, it’s true, we have a little something extra today…an article about Grant Snider, as opposed to our most recent presentation of his brilliant work, just a little earlier this morning. So glad we found this one:

by Jeffrey Kindley

GRANT SNIDER’S first book, The Shape of Ideas: An Illustrated Exploration of Creativity, a compilation of cartoons from his website Incidental Comics, has just been published by Abrams ComicArts. “What do ideas look like? Where do they come from?” asks the jacket copy. Surprisingly, Snider’s beautifully composed cartoons have cogent answers to those questions — or if they don’t, he’s at least an urgent asker. He’s created something unique: a synthesis of comics, philosophy, and poetry: a thoughtful new way of packaging eternal ideas in cartoon boxes.

Snider grew up in Derby, Kansas, outside of Wichita, reading newspaper comics like Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side and drawing with his twin brother Gavin. “Our parents gave us an easel,” Gavin remembers. “Grant would have one side and I’d have the other. We’d tear a big roll of paper and stick it on there and get markers and create these imaginary worlds.” They drew pirates, asteroids, aliens, and Bigfoot, and used the drawings to tell stories to each other.

“I kept drawing past when most people stop,” Snider says, “but I didn’t start seriously cartooning until late in college at the University of Kansas.” Then, while he was in dental school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, he won the Charles M. Schulz Award for college cartoonists, which came with a $10,000 prize and a trip to the National Press Club in Washington, DC. That caught the attention of the Kansas City Star, which started running his strip Delayed Karma.

In 2009, Snider launched Incidental Comics, which gave him the freedom to draw whatever he wanted. “When I first started putting it on the internet,” he says, “nobody was reading it, so it didn’t really matter.” Soon, however, thousands of people were reading it and finding new favorites every week. He began drawing smart, fanciful, hilarious literary cartoons forThe New York Times Book Review as well.

I spoke to Grant Snider a few days after the publication of The Shape of Ideas.

JEFFREY KINDLEY: You’ve described your work as “self-help for myself,” but another word for it might be “philosophical.” In creating “An Illustrated Exploration of Creativity,” you’re providing endless images for the mind’s activity — even one called “The Internal Decathlon.” I can’t think of anyone who’s done this before: ideational cartooning.

GRANT SNIDER: I love that term, “ideational cartooning.” It reflects the goal of much of my work: capturing my mental state in graphic form. I’m also trying (and sometimes failing) to find a closer connection between comics and poetry. Both contain condensed language, strong imagery, and ideally leave the reader with a new insight. Lately I’ve been obsessed with Billy Collins’s poems; I’ve tried to emulate his approach of following a line of thought wherever it takes him. He also has a lot of poetry about the writing process, which appeals to me as a writer, but also in the unusual connections he draws between writing and life.

That said, I try not to think of these things as I’m drawing each individual comic. I’ve found that having grand ambitions for my work (planning multiple comics on one theme or plotting the creative arc of my future projects) takes away from the discovery and exploration that should be present in each new piece. Maybe this is the reason I tend to work in small, short bursts of inspiration: I prefer to craft a single page that stands alone, rather than a comic essay or graphic novel. As a reader, I prefer the haiku to the long poem. My mind is impatient.

Many of the cartoonists you admire — Matt Groening, B. Kliban, Roz Chast, Tom Gauld, Chris Ware, Dan Clowes — have a somewhat jaundiced take on things, whereas your perspective is uniquely open and celebratory. Do you feel like an outsider in the world of cartooning?

No, I very much relate to the stereotypical cartoonist persona: grumbling, introverted, slightly misanthropic. It’s my default mode of seeing the world. Maybe it’s due to the lonely hours spent at the drawing table? The celebration that comes through in my drawings is me trying to transcend my normal way of looking at things.

And much of the celebration and joy in my comics follows panels of building frustration. Usually it’s frustration with the creative process. There’s one called “Hitting a Wall” where every introductory panel is some creative wall, and in the following panel I find a way over that wall, including charging at it on horseback and vaulting over it with a spear. In those moments of frustration, I’m always looking for the way out.

I want my comics to be motivational but honest. It’s a fine line; inspirational stuff can easily become sentimental. Sometimes I find the right balance, other times I don’t. Cynicism is easier than sincerity, but for me sincerity is more powerful.

It may come as a surprise to some that you’re an orthodontist in Wichita with a wife and three kids. People tend to imagine artists devoting themselves to their work 24/7. You have a brilliant cartoon, “Day Jobs of the Poets,” which features, among others, William Carlos Williams, pediatrician; Wallace Stevens, insurance executive; Robert Frost, failed agrarian; and T. S. Eliot, bank clerk. Why is it, do you think, that we expect artists to be above the workaday?

A lot of that stems from a misunderstanding about how art is made….

Read it all at L.A. Review of Books

Distractions aren’t the Enemy. WE are!

Know all those distractions that seem to band together to clobber us when we sit down to write? Ever wonder what kind of monstrous villain would create such bullies to keep us from realizing our potential? Try this on for size: Our foe is us.

by Patrick Allan

Welcome back to Mid-Week Meditations, Lifehacker’s weekly dip into the pool of stoic wisdom, and how you can use its waters to reflect on and improve your life.

This week’s selection comes from Marcus Aurelius’ and his Meditations. He has some thoughts on the things which distract us from our goals in our day to day lives:

The external things whose pursuit or avoidance troubles you do not force themselves on you, but in a way you yourself go out to them. However that may be, keep your judgement of them calm and they too will stay still – then you will not be seen either to pursue or to avoid. – Meditations, 11.11

What It Means

One of the main ideas Aurelius focuses on in his stoic writings is the notion that the mind is immune to all external things. For example, you can’t control a situation’s circumstances, but since they do not affect your mind, you can control how you react to them. The same goes for all of the “external things” you pursue or try to avoid when you’re trying to get work done.

You do not pursue distractions because they command you to do so; you pursue them because your mind chooses to. You do not avoid distractions because of their nature; you avoid them because you believe you can’t control yourself around them. Basically, something is a distraction because you allow it to be, because you judge it so. All distractions require your input for them to exist—otherwise they are just a thing that exists in the world.

But if you adjust your input, if you choose to see those external things as just that, as things, they lose their draw. When you’re not pursuing or avoiding something, it’s simply there. Out of judgement, out of mind.

This concept can be hard to grasp at first, so perhaps a real-world example is the best way to explain its practicality. Say, you have a video game that’s eating up all of your free time. You know you have side projects to work on, errands to run, and relationships to maintain, but this game is keeping your from getting anything of value done…

Read it all at Lifehacker

Cartoon: ‘Iridescence’

Speaking of cartoons and insight (as we were just a couple of days ago), Grant Snider’s got it down:

 

Or, as some German dood name of Goethe once said: “There is nothing so terrible as activity without insight.” Grant Snider doesn’t just know these things. He sees them, hears them, and most importantly feels them.

More of Grant Snider’s sensitive perception at Incidental Comics, HERE

Buy his wonderful new book HERE

Web Series: ‘The Vamps Next Door’

NOTE FROM LB: Want to see what a web series episode with a million and a half views looks like? Click “play” on the video below.

by Larry Brody

There I was, on the back deck of the Brody home that isn’t Cloud Creek Ranch, having a fine old end of summer convo with my wife, Gwen the Beautiful, and two old friends, and suddenly the Missus of the friends, Laura Conway, casually mentions, “I’ve been making a couple of web series. They’re a lot of fun.”

And without missing a beat, the Mistah of the couple, Gerry Conway (yes, this Gerry Conway), equally casually says, “Laura’s shows have over three million views.”

“Three million views?” was all I could say.

“Yep,” Gerry said.

“And you never told me before?”

“I haven’t told very many people at all about the shows,” Laura said.

“Why not?” I said.

“She’s shy,” Gerry said.

Laura nodded. “I am. I’m shy.”

So, because I’m not so shy, let me repeat the most cogent fact here, because, well, because how can I not?

Three million views.

Fucking three fucking million fucking views!

And not only had I never known that Laura was doing this, I’d neither heard about nor seen any of her shows anywhere before.

Those of you who know me know where this is going. I have now watched Laura Conway’s absolutely mind-blowingly professional top scoring in every aspect series, The Vamps Next Door, and I’m absolutely blown away.

The episode above, “Hurt So Good,” is the most popular in the series, but the others are all just as good. Scripts, direction, acting, production values, we’re talking stuff that puts the original Dark Shadows to shame. Oh, and in case you haven’t watched the embed yet, I gotta tell you: The Vamps Next Door is funny.

To me, one of the most interesting thing about The Vamps Next Door is that Laura was a total noob when she started it, seven years ago. If you watch the earlier episodes, they’re rough, unpolished, fraught with the errors all new filmmakers make.  But she learned, and is still learning, the way a true creator does.

You can find out more about the show HERE, and you definitely should.

Thank you, Laura, for finally coming out of the closet!

Oh hell, here’s an episode of Laura’s other show, Ageless. It left me speechless when I first saw it, but I’m sure we’ll talk more about this later: