Enjoyable ways of working with a director (7 replies and 29 comments)
Hello Team Deakins! I'm wondering about the relationships you have on set with your directors. Do you prefer them to be very savvy technically, so they can communicate with you in that way, or are mood boards and being able to express the emotion of the scenes and how we want to feel as we watch them just as good? I have directed several shorts and am hoping to do my first feature soon, and I want to be able to communicate with the DP, whoever it ends up being, in the best way possible. Of course everyone is different, but from your perspective, do you prefer directors to be more knowledgable about camera and lighting tech, or does it matter to you? I like to work very collaboratively with my team, especially the DP, but I am also have a very strong vision that I think I am good at communicating but perhaps I need more tech prowess...any thoughts?
Some directors are more knowledgeable regarding cameras, lenses and lighting that others but I don't think it is that important either way. To have an emotional understanding of and love for the moving image is more important than knowing the difference between a Fresnel lamp and an open face or a 50mm lens and a 135mm lens.
Thank you for that!
Are we related here? Have not seen that before on this forum.
Hi Mike! My parents are from England and I am sure we are related in some distant way, but I'm not truly sure of the family tree and how far back our connection is. My Uncle was a Labour MP in Parliament there many years ago (Eric Deakins) and I think he has been linked to Roger, but again, no one in my family currently seems to know how exactly. I came to filmmaking late, having made a career first as an actor, and I often lament that I didn't filmmaking sooner, as it truly feels like home and what I should have been doing all along. If I am lucky, some of Roger's talent will have passed down to me! I've only made three films so far, but I am looking forward to many years to come making more (financing Gods willing)! Are you a cinematographer Mike? Can I see your work somewhere? Apologies if you've already posted about this, I'm new to the forum.
Very interesting post. Am pleased you switched to the production side, acting can be rewarding providing you get the breaks but if you like ‘eating’ then the production side is more challenging especially when you are up in the pecking order. You haven’t said what you do so assume you are involved in the photographic side of the business. No, I am not a cinematographer But did train as a TV cameraman in Melbourne and then progressed doing the same for the BBC. I wore many hats over the years. I still get involved with BBC NHU from time to time. I even flew for a living after getting my ATPL licence that was real fun and good money. I still love the theatre though, spent many happy years in theatre production. I love the whole aspect of the film Industry which is why I joined this forum. Welcome to the forum Sarah, look forward to reading your posts.
Funny, I too spent many happy years in theatre, but as a performer. That was my training and I originally thought I was going to be doing Shakespeare in the Park the rest of my life, but then once I got a few film and TV roles, a whole new career blossomed. I worked for years as an actor mostly on TV, then started writing stuff for myself and my friends to perform in, then branched into directing from there. My favourite part of the process now is post, as I adore the editing, sound and colour process. It's truly where the movie is made and I never understand directors just handing the footage over and only coming in for notes after most of the work has been done. I work alongside my editor the whole time, same with sound designers, the mix, and colour. So many ways to support your story in those processes, and I love them all so much now. Anyway, thanks for sharing your journey with me and for welcoming me to the forum! I'm loving the podcasts and just trying to soak up as much as possible during these isolated times (we're still locked down in Toronto). Cheers Mike! - S
My father was born across the lake from you in St. Catharines. My grandparents emigrated to a farm there before WW1 but returned to their original property in Devon after the war. Originally that side of the family came from Wales where they were tinkers.
I'm told St. Catherine's is very pretty, though I am still newish to Ontario and haven't made it there yet. My parents and their families were all in the UK up 'til my parent moved to Chicago in the 60's. My Dad studied Social Work at the University of Chicago doing his doctorate there, and they moved to Vancouver in Canada after he graduated as he was offered a teaching job at the School Of Social Work at UBC. I was a year old when we moved to Canada, but we went back to London often to visit relatives, so I've always had a British sensibility I suppose, which I am told is often evident in my work. Blood memory I suppose. 😉 After growing up in Vancouver and starting my career there, I moved to LA for 5 years, then here to Toronto. I shall see if your Devon, Wales, tinker info jogs any memory in my Uncle Eric or my Mum (sadly my father is no longer with us). Were you evacuated during WWII? I know my father was always haunted by those memories and it informed his life path a great deal...
On second thought, you probably weren't evacuated, if you were in Devon, though maybe your family even took children in...?
And then of course I realize you weren't even born 'til after the war, my apologies! No disrespect intended. 😉
Yes, it was a little disturbing to be asked if I had been evacuated during the war! My father met my mother at a WAFS dance just before they were demobbed. I only recently found out that she had driven an ambulance during the worst of the blitz. I was lucky to have been born well after that and when the country was getting back on its feet again. I do remember rationing though, and especially my first taste of a pineapple. I am sure many people have still to taste a pineapple so I count myself lucky in that as well.
It's funny how our parents had whole lives before we came along that we are mostly not privy to; for us, their existence begins with our earliest memories of them. I remember my father talking of rationing, and my mother. They met at a Peace march and protested many things in their early days together, trying to change the world for the better, though that was all lost on me as a child, knowledge that I didn't yet have of them. When he was dying, we asked my father to tell us stories of his early life, so we could know him more completely; I wanted to learn every piece that made up who he was before we were to lose him. The war, and the subsequent years figured heavily in those stories and I know both my parents lives were shaped by those experiences greatly. My mother remembers hiding in the crawl space under the stairs of their little house in Middlesex, Heston, Hounslow, during the Blitz as a child. And then they just got on with things. I think rationing had a good deal to do with my father's sweet tooth. Things that had been denied him as a child he delighted in as an adult. He used to buy us fresh Pineapple and cut it for us on the kitchen table, passing us great wedges of it as he sliced into the juicy goodness, so I imagine you had that love in common! 😉
This would make a marvellous script. Don’t you think?
I've actually written and directed a couple films inspired by my parents already, but yes, I have always wanted to do something around this period as well. Period pieces are expensive and right now I am a poor indie filmmaker, so I write stuff I can do very cheaply, but hopefully one day...you never know!
There are 37K members on this forum and as you said, you never know what’s around the corner. That’s what makes it so interesting, you just never know who you are going to meet. May I suggest you start to write that script while the story is still fresh in your mind.
“After all, Tomorrow, is another day”
Ah, alas, that script will have to wait, as I have a series in development and two features, but yes, I have a file full of notes about it and it's been percolating for years, so it's far from "fresh" at this point. I keep folders of ideas of things that I can come back to when the time is right, as I am sure most of us do, and that's one of the files in there. Right now I'm focussed on getting something made, as I have quite a few scripts languishing in obscurity that deserve to come to light. Sometimes I'm focussed on writing and sometimes I'm focussed on getting what is written made, and this year is a "get something made" year. 😉
When you get time perhaps you would be willing to discuss your series or feature.
Sounds very interesting, you seem to be very busy.
Most of the busy right now is trying to raise money, ha! I'm at that awkward, ready to do bigger projects but don't have the contacts yet to raise the money stage. 😉 My least favourite part, but I have to learn this stuff or I'll never get to bring these stories to life! Oh, to be independently wealthy, haha!
But to answer your question (very kind of you to ask) the series, HAPPENSTANCE, is set on the streets of downtown core where I live, and follows an ensemble of characters: those who slip through the cracks and the people they leave behind. It's inspired by losing my stepmother to Schizophrenia and a life on the streets. The series is sort of a "Crash" like interweaving story that unfolds over 10 episodes.
The feature closest to being made is one I wrote and am handing off to a very capable director (still hard to do, but he has money connections and I wouldn't be able to raise the money for this as quickly as he hopes to). It's called HOME FREE, and it tells the story of three estranged adult sisters who return home for their parent's 50th wedding anniversary, only to discover that their parents have a suicide pact. it's dark and funny and sad and wonderful, sort of a throwback to films like "Crimes of the Heart" and "On Golden Pond".
The other feature is called "VIOLET", and I hope it will be my first feature as a director. It's inspired by an article I read about the underground public bathrooms at the corner of Main and Hastings in Vancouver, the seediest corner in North America. IN tis story, two attendants working in an underground public bathroom in the seediest part of town form a friendship with a prostitute who forces them all to face their secrets, as they form the world's most unexpected book club.
The script was a semi finalist in the 2020 Nicholl Fellowship Screenwriting Competition, and placed well in several other screenplay contests; I love this film so much, and I'm working hard to make the contacts to raise the financing for it. It's a great one to do during the pandemic, as it's a studio build set that can be shot in one locations with a very small cast. Such great possibilities cinematography wise, with a split screen between the two sides and the connecting door linking the men's side with the women's, Ultra Violet light on the mens' side (junkies can't see their veins to shoot up under ultra violet light) and the contrast of the cozy little offices versus the green tiled washrooms they look over. Super excited to get to a point where we can figure out how to build the set for our shooting needs.
Anyway, that's enough about me for now, ha! What's bring YOU joy and inspiration these days?
my two cents is that you don’t have to know the technical stuff as a director. I think the director should have a vision and know how to communicate clearly to their HoDs what results they want but it’s the DPs job to get you those results. If you knew how to light the scene yourself you wouldn’t need a DP. You don’t need to know everyone’s job. Just make your vision clear and, if you hire the right DP, they should help you achieve your vision.
Thank you Anca! I feel much better about things because of people like you, ha!
Wow! You certainly wear a lot of ‘hats’. Your two scripts sound wonderful especially the last one. That story is tailor made for live theatre. It would make a good play and being confined to a small set too, this would appeal to a wide audience. It’s gritty and
Is built around a public bathroom which on its own opens up crude behaviour habits and rich discussions, you can do a lot with this story if you do your research.
I think you will have to visit your local bathes to understand the flavour of how bathers talk to each other, the air can be very “blue” as heated discussions get under way, everyone is trying to put the world to rights and would reveal their inner frustrations, the audience will love this one. Get it on stage first and see how it goes. All good plays end up on the silver screen eventually. Hobsons Choice, Brief Ecounter, Etc the list goes on. But you do need top quality actors to deliver it.
I am not sure why you really want to make a short film. If you are a writer then why not stick with that. Constantly swapping roles will only dilute your talents so Would it not be best to specialise in one or two vocations rather than wearing many hats to see which one fits best. Mind you I have done it and it has not always worked out financially so concentrate on what you do best. Otherwise, you will be fatigued quite fast and will put your head in a spin. Actor to Director is understandable but actor to DP may be quite a jump imo. Have you worked out how much your short film will cost and I mean right to the completion readY for distribution. Finding the money could be a real headache and a great diversion when you could be Directing a play for instance. I suppose you want to do all of it so you can gauge what are your real talents and then reduce those down to a few controllable ones. I assume you would not be happy with yourself until you’ve tried everything else. Don’t blame you.
Anyway, get those scripts finalised and present them and see if there are anyone interested. Those scripts sound very interesting especially the bath house one.
Keep us informed of your progress will you. Me! My feet don’t touch the ground, I am so busy trying to earn a crust!
Would anyone else like to make a comment on Sarah’s ambitions.
You may have misunderstood me on a few points, so to clarify:
I'm not doing the cinematography on VIOLET, just directing something I wrote, which is as natural as breathing to me, so it doesn't feel like too many things, as I think you were concerned about. I've directed three shorts that I wrote up to this point, a 12 min, a 15 min and a half hour; the feature, VIOLET, is the next step.
I did say I was excited by the cinematography possibilities with this film, but that is not to say that I will be taking on that role, I just have a vision for the piece.
Research: I've researched this film for over 5 years and it's inspired by an article so I was able to get a lot of details from that as well, and from interviews with the people who worked there for decades.
Regarding your theatre comment: the script also has several flashbacks to each character's childhood, which illustrate a lot about their characters, and get us out of the oppression of the space for brief moments, while also serving as transitions to new scenes. It's doable as a play without these things, but would still be very expensive to produce in that medium, so I am focussed on getting it to screen at this point. My background is theatre, that's what I went to University for, so it is well steeped in me and I am aware that many of my fave films over the years started off as plays, and perhaps, indeed, it is why I write in the manner that do, focussing more on inner journeys than external ones.
As far as you focussing on earning a crust, I too have several "Joe jobs" if it makes you feel any better!
Hope all is well!
Thankyou Sarah for sharing your thoughts, extremely interesting.
Fortunately, I don’t have to work for a living but I do invest in others, which keeps me very busy. I wish you lots of luck with your filming.
Oh, apologies, I must have misunderstood the phrase! Doesn't "trying to earn a crust" mean making just enough money to get by? You sound very fortunate indeed, quite the opposite of what I thought you meant, haha! Anyway, all the best Mike, have a lovely weekend.
You too Sarah. Yes, you are right, earning a “crust” does mean what you say but perhaps I should have used a better word. I sincerely hope that you make that film,
You are very headstrong and determined so that’s in your favour. Please let us know how you are getting on. We all want to see you win through.
Btw, is that you having your photo taken on the web, great photos.
Thanks for your encouragement Mike. It's a long journey and the hardest part is finding financing for an indie feature, but as you say, I am determined, ha!
Which photos do you mean? My profile pic and header photo on this site? The profile was taken by me as a selfie on one of my side gigs at the end of a very long day, but I loved the light (magic hour) so took that on the boat on the way home, and the header photo is a still from my first film, "Greece", a short about a woman struggling to make a last connection with her catatonic mother, set in a British nursing home. It's HERE» if you are interested, but no pressure! (if you do decide to watch and are doing so on a computer, you may want to wear headphones if you have them. The sound was mixed for theatrical release only, for fests, and computer speakers miss the full sound design if you just play through a laptop speaker for example).
Lovely that you are helping others with their projects; a wonderful thing to do when one is fortunate enough not to worry about earning a crust! 😉
All the best, SD
Would love to see it but there’s no link.
There is someone on the web that shares your name and has a showreel, thought it was you.
The link is not working Sarah would you post it again Please?
Sorry, don't know why it didn't work: https://nsi-canada.ca/2016/03/greece/»
Hope that works.
Mike, it probably was me, I have a bunch of reels on line from my acting work and some from directing. Not sure what you watched, but glad you liked!
Hi Robert, thanks for asking!
And also, Robert, are you a filmmaker? If so, let me know where I can see your work!
No I am not Sorry. I am a web developer and manage web sites
I have watched your short film using Beyer DT48’s reference headphones and wish to tell you that it is one of the best short films I have ever seen. Normally I scrutinise these type of films as I am studying how these films were put together but when I viewed yours, I was immediately drawn into the story. Not only was it superbly written, it was superbly performed by you. This is a master class in acting, beautifully
edited, lovely music and most of all stunning photography/lighting imo. I listened
intently to the dialogue and the sound track was clean all the way through.
I really loved it and will be watching it again later on. Stunning little film.
I really loved the script, beautiful writing, you certainly have a gift for it. Very clever piece of dramatic art at its best. Everybody should watch it, it is a beautiful piece of film making but it cost a lot of money. You cannot get to that standard without a
financial commitment from somebody in the know. It paid off. Should be shown on TV for all to see. Well done to you and the production unit.
Robert: you don't need to be sorry! I was just curious. I'm redoing my own website right now and I hate it, so people like you are a godsend if you ask me. 😉
Mike: you made my day, thank you for taking the time to watch and be so complimentary and encouraging. It actually didn't cost me anything, as everyone volunteered and the production company did me a favour with the studio and the set. I was VERY fortunate, though it took 3 years to come to fruition. My other films were made for much less, but still with lovely artists behind them all, so I love them all like children, and am proud of them even though I can see all the things I would do differently if I had more money, I think there is something to be said for having very little, and relying on the story and the characters, well photographed, to draw you in. Despite not having fancy sets or epic plots, these films, the smaller ones that are almost like poems, ripple out like a stone thrown into a pool, and effect me for years after making them.
Anyway, thank you again for taking some time to watch my first venture into directing, and have a lovely weekend!
I think the most important characteristic of a director is passion for the project and a vision of what the film can be. You have people well versed in the technical side of things to cover that for you but the vision should be coming from the director. Collaboration is key and gets the best out of your crew and makes your movie the best it can be.
Good luck with your project!
Thank you James! Appreciate the perspective.