Archive for February, 2013
These days, not only is every filmmaker a director, editor, and DP, but it seems that a lot of us are having to be electricians as well. With little lights and high ISO cameras, I see a lot of people playing gaffer and lighting their own sets. That’s fantastic, except when it’s dangerous.
I’m no electrician. I know maybe two things about electricity on a set, but they’re biggies so here goes:
- Never hold one light in each hand.
- Make sure any circuit you plug into has a ground fault circuit interrupt (GFCI).
Here’s my understanding of why you never hold a light in each hand: Something, something, something, electricity can shoot through your heart. There might be a more thorough explanation on Wikipedia, but really, do you need one?
As a director, you can always phone it in with standard coverage or rely on your DP can find you lovely backgrounds and nice shot compositions, but if you want to pull off any shots that are interesting, meaningful, or cool, you need to plan them out ahead of time with storyboards or a coverage plan. Great shots don’t just happen.
I believe that being a good director means making a plan that I can share with other people before the morning of the shoot. That’s why I typically put in a bunch of prep time creating storyboards, shooting plans, and shot lists. In this post I’ll talk about what these are and why I think they’re important.
Preparation: The Burden and Opportunity
Typically on a shoot day you barely have enough time to get all the shots you need, let alone explore them. As much as I love the romantic notion of a director figuring out his vision on the set as he and the actors try new things, the reality is, a good director figures all that out long before the shoot. And then maybe, if he’s done his prep, he gets a few more ideas in the moment. But that’s only after all the work is done.
So how do you figure out your vision before you’re actually on the set looking at everything? One of the best ways is with storyboards and shooting plans. Sketching out what you want to shoot is a great way to try new things, refine your vision, and then communicate that to all the people who will help you realize it. In many ways, the director’s real visual exploratory work is done on paper.
(* The other exploratory work a director can do—the performance exploration—is in workshopping and rehearsing with actors. I’ll talk about this in a future post.)
Put your footage somewhere safe
One of the ironies of filmmaking is that people will work all day moving mountains to capture footage—which is then stored on the flimsiest format imaginable. At the end of the roll, everyone’s hard work is at the mercy of the guys unloading the camera and taking the film to the lab. And even with all the changes to the film world over the years, this remains the same. Your hard work is stored on strips of exposed negative, a hard drive, or a little memory card. Better keep your eye on it! (continue reading…)