Sunday, 9 November 2008

Allow Me To Explain- But What I Want To Do Is Direct...

Okay, last time I talked about the various kinds of Producers are the people that get a film made, today I'm going to be discussing the person who actually makes the film.

I'm talking about The Director.

The Director, otherwise known as the auteur, the filmmaker, the genius, the visionary, the no-talent hack, and the dictator, has a very simple job on the surface, but below that surface is a whole truckload of complications. Yes, it is the director's job to make the movie, but it's really the director's job to be the centre of everything.

You see film-making is highly collaborative with loads of people contributing, from the writers, designers, cinematographers, and just about every buddy and their cousin from Newfoundland. It is the job of the Director to cut through this clutter with their own vision to create the film, and to take the elements, ideas, suggestions, and orders from his collaborators to hone and improve this vision.

It wasn't always like this. Directing came from the theatre, and the first film directors just handled the actors, using whatever sets, props, and locations, were at hand, while the cameraman handled the technical aspects, and most cases, even the props, and the editors just took whatever takes were done right, and slap them together into a finished film. But that began to change when directors like D.W. Griffith started taking more control of things beyond the actors, to how the film looked, and how it was finally put together. I'm not saying that people like Griffith started doing everyone else's jobs, that would be nutty, but the collaboration system began. And as the technology of film-making grew more sophisticated, films needed some at the creative centre of the film to ensure that the stories being told were just as sophisticated.

When the studio system kicked in full steam in the mid-1920s most directors became salary-men, grinding out films assigned to them by their bosses, at a fairly regular rate. Yet even in this system some directors stood out because the qualities they instilled in their films made them critically and commercially appealing. Certain studios, usually the ones lacking in major stars, began vying for these filmmakers, even luring some in from the thriving European cinema scene, especially Germany.

In the 1950s the French magazine Cahiers du Cinema presented a new theory about Directors, popularly known as the Auteur theory. The micro version of this theory was that even in the restrictions of the classic studio system directors like Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Howard Hawks, and others, were the true authors, or auteurs, of their films.

Interestingly, this revelation coincided with the slow death of the studio system, transforming directors from studio employees to freelance artists. Now everyone wanted to be the Director, and the new phenomenon of film schools began turning them out by the classload.

That's not to say that film-making
became a happy kingdom where Directors made films the way they wanted to. He who pays the piper ultimately calls the tune, and only a select few of commercially successful director-producers had the sort of complete independence with their films for good or ill. Although reasonable producers, working with reasonable directors, usually have their creative issues settled before a single frame is shot.

Now what about those other "Directors" you see in the credits.

ASSISTANT DIRECTORS (AD): These fellows handle the little details so the auteur doesn't have to. Their responsibilities range from doing errands, passing along orders from the director, all the way to directing background players (or "extras").

DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY (DOP): This person supervises the technical aspects of lighting, camera work, and their relation to sets and physical effects. They take the director's vision and makes them into images on film.

2nd UNIT DIRECTORS: Almost every major feature film has two "Units." The first unit has the director, the DOP, the main cast, and the main crew. The 2nd Unit handles all the things that don't involve the main cast. This can include everything from major stunts, to "inserts" like close-ups of hands, feet, or props that don't need the original stars.

Next time, I'll explain how a TV show gets made.

1 comment:

  1. A question: When the opening credits say a movie is "A Joe Blow" film is that just a fancy way of saying Joe Blow was the director?

    I like this series, btw. Very interesting and informative.