Herr Direktor, Part Two

Murnau
Previously we discussed the film director and some basic misconceptions about this glamour-distorted position on a film set. Let us go deeper into the subject.

The Director must lead by example

Traditional roles on a film set exist to create a well-oiled machine that can carry out the production of a film from A-Z, but it would be naive to think that filmmaking does not have a built-in hierarchy.

As usual there is a very real danger of falling into a typical pyramid system where some people lord it over other people, and everyone forgets to concentrate on the filmmaking because they’re preoccupied by their power-relationships and status on set.

A good director will break up these petty politics early on and establish a responsible government that is based on trust. You must communicate a single and crucial message to your crew; we have to make the best film possible, everything else is secondary.

Subsequent to establishing this mandate the director must become the absolute example of the kind of individual he wants on his crew. That means punctuality, concentration, dedication, respect, maturity. If you run into problems with a crew member in any of these categories then immediately ask yourself whether you yourself have delivered on all these fronts in an exemplary way.

You set the pace of a shoot. If you can balance good quality workmanship with integrity and a sense of humor then you are almost guaranteed to have the support of the entire team. If you behave like a clown then fully expect for this vibe to trickle down to the last man or woman in your crew and then you should brace yourself for filmmaking hell.

Finally for this installment, a solid director is a good judge of character and quickly learns to entrust crucial points of the production to people who can run with the ball.

This is not only a matter of careful delegation; once you have designated your field commanders, it is essential that you do not micro-manage them, and it’s not just an issue of control.

By delegating tasks to competent individuals and letting them run their departments, you will call forth their ingenuity and creativity as well. If all you foster on set are pawns with titles then you might as well close shop.

Filmmaking is a team sport not just because it takes bodies, but because it gains from the input of several creative heads. Your job as director is to lead, but more importantly to weave all these natural forces together into something organic, something compelling.

To be continued

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