The reason why I wanted to direct this year, is due to the fact that I have a very visual way of thinking, I always see images in my mind first. After this moment I have to try and make others understand whats going on in my head, this is where different peoples skills become extremely important. I know that I am not the most technical or organized so I will make sure that I am not in charge of this aspect, I think part of directing successfully will be down to understanding peoples strengths and weakness and making sure people play to their strengths.
Can we just put up what we are all doing this week! It would be great if we all did specific things, e.g ill be looking up cinematography storyboarding, and begin character concpets
I think the beauty of having 5 people will give us the chance to help each other save time.
I remember from past groups everyone was doing the same thing which was a waste of time. Good luck guys.
More detail in Job Roles. It may be a bit lengthy, But offers some good advice.
I like to write.
Well this is good. So do I, but I'm not a script writer. Script writers kick-start the whole process. Directors like to think that they are The Business, but the truth is that Script Writers should be right there on the Pedestal with them. Unfortunately, a lot of good scriptwriters are really unpresentable to the modern world. That's why Directors get the media interest, because Directors can talk, which many scriptwriters can't. Or at least they might not be able to be suave and charming and er.. well.. tell... er.. partial truths. Being able to tell partial truths is very important for publicity, so if you don't think you can face the camera and say that you think the leading lady is an Absolute Dream when you know that she is 9/10ths SuperBitch, then don't be a Director. (Or don't do publicity). But Writers can be any kind of personality, as they don't have to appear in public. And they don't have to tell partial truths.
Writing film scripts is very different from writing novels or journalism or any other kind of writing. This is because it's not really writing. It's a PLAN. Like an Architects Plan. The dialogue is the only bit that really survives, and even that gets changed by the Director or the Actor or both. So if you want to write and have what you write filmed exactly, then you have to Write and Direct. Lots of people want to do this, but God made very few creatures who are able to do this. This is because the personalities of Writers and Directors are so different: and even when such a person exists, usually one side of that person fails in the end. Unless they are one of the few i.e. A BRILLIANT ONE.
Anyway, back to writing scripts. There are people who write and re-write scripts their whole lives, get paid bucketfuls of wonga (money), and may never have had one of their scripts turned into a movie. This is strange but true. These people are usually rich when they are middle aged, and pissed off. They only live in Hollywood; other countries in the world don't appear to support this species. You could be one of these people if you like to read scripts, then go to meetings and say in a knowledgeable and forceful manner why it doesn't work and then suggest better ideas which you, naturally, would write after your Agent has asked for a suitable 6 figure sum. I guess the people who do this job started by writing original scripts, or adapting books and then got employed by Studios. Most of them have degrees in English Literature.
Then there is writing scripts because YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY. Now this is something else entirely. I have had the good fortune to photograph a number of films where the Writer has something to say. Sometimes the Writer may be a person of "First Order Originality". This phrase was coined by a friend of mine to define an Artist. (Not an Actor). The word Artist should be reserved for "A Person of First Order Originality". This means a person who HAS SOMETHING TO SAY and can say it in a way that has meaning for others. This idea can be applied to any Art, but it does mean that the only true artist working on a film is the Writer, or a Writer/Director, or sometimes a Director working in close collaboration with a writer. The rest of us are working to execute and contribute to THE IDEA. So if you think you have something to say and want to say it on Film, you may be a Writer or a Writer/Director.
Kieslowski famously said, when asked why he stopped making films: "I've nothing left to say."
If the rest of the Worlds Directors were that honest, they'd quit tomorrow.
I'm a good organiser.
This is something that Producers do. Well, some of them. Stephen Frears once said to me that a Producer is someone who organises Airline Tickets. I think he meant a Production Manager but I'm not sure.
Producers are the top of the tree for people who work In the Office as opposed to On the Set or In the Studio. Producers come in all shapes and sizes. I used to just not like them in principle because I must have been influenced by all the bad things I read about them, as well as the fact they employed me, and naturally I resent authority figures. Anyhow it turns out that now some producers are my friends and I not only like them but really admire them because they do something I could never do: persist through thick and thin for years on end believing in a film and getting it made. This is very very hard as well as often financially very precarious. This is because everyone thinks Producers are rich and whilst some of them are, many of them are not. There are other kinds of producers too: lying, cheating nasty people who snort coke and mercifully go to an early grave. Try and avoid this kind.
If you want to work in the Production Office, you call the production (get the number from a trade magazine like Hollywood Reporter) and ask for the Production Manager. The person who answers the phone is called a PA or Production Assistant and is doing the job that you want. They won't put you through to the Production Manager who has better things to do than listen to another 18 year old asking for a job. So he or she will tell you to send in a Resume, which is hard if you haven't done a job yet. Blank sheets of paper don't go down very well.
Now a very useful phrase to use here is Work Experience - providing that you can pass for under 20. The word Work Experience might get you through to the Production Manager, because they don't have to pay you. So you can only do this, if you can support yourself in some other way. But the Good News is that if you offer to work for free to GAIN EXPERIENCE, they might take you in, at least for awhile. Once you are through the door then the sheer CHARM and ENTHUSIASM of your personality may make you so indispensable to the production that they hire you forever. Or not. Or you may fall in love with the Accountant.
The bad news is that when you finally get employed as a PA, you work ridiculous hours and get paid really, really badly. And you have to use your own car. A lot. There seems to be a FREE handbook (2009) on how you're supposed to behave as a PA at This Site.
The other kind of Good Organiser is the First Assistant Director (the 1st AD.). To attain this lofty position you start as an On Set Runner.
You apply for this by doing the same as above but phoning the 1st AD during pre-production. He or She won't talk to you for the same reasons as above, but you can pull the same Work Experience trick, only On Set as opposed to In The Office. The relationship between the First AD and the Director and Cinematographer is crucial to a good working situation on set.
I want to Direct.
Doesn't everybody. It's the control thing, and the power. All those people doing what you tell them. Or maybe YOU’VE GOT SOMETHING TO SAY. Or maybe not. You want a career, power, and glory. The big question is: DO YOU SEE PICTURES IN YOUR HEAD. If not, forget about being a Film Director, or a Cinematographer. Directors and Cinematographers can string pictures together in their head, like a Composer can "hear" music and then write it down. Now some musicians (like me) tinkle about on an instrument until they work out a tune: this is not being a real musician. Real Musicians hear music in their heads, then write it down, or play it. The rest of us are just larking about, and a lot of fun it is too.
Some people say Directing is a vocation, like being a Priest or a Doctor. It's not remotely like being a Priest or a Doctor, but it may be a vocation, because no-one in their right mind would voluntarily go through the kind of hell that a Film Director has to go through.
Film Directors not only have to be able to visualize in their heads, but they also have to be able to deal with a lot of very demanding and very different types of people. Occasionally someone like Karasawa or Hitchcock appear. People like them are so brilliant that they clearly don't live in the same world as us mere mortals. And it is up to us to Protect and Preserve People like Them - the Brilliant Ones. In the Good Old Days (a phrase banned from my vocabulary, but I'm allowed to write it), the Brilliant Ones were revered by society: Philosophers, Writers, Composers, and Artists. Nowadays Film Directors of all kinds get the treatment, but most of them are not The Brilliant Ones, but are just Ordinary Mortals trying to get in the limelight and make a decent movie. Good luck to them.
I don't like working with Directors who don't have anything to say, and are horrid to everybody because they perceive themselves as being important. They don't like working with me much either (fortunately). Some Directors are really nice people but not very good Directors, and some of them are really Brilliant but not very nice. Occasionally you will find one who is really Brilliant and Really Nice. Try and work with these!
The thing to remember if you aim to become a film director is that it is not necessary to behave badly (unless you're a Genius, in which case you can't help it.) And also that the one person on the film set who doesn't have to know anything technically is the Director. He or She can have their heads completely immersed in the Script and the Actors and that's all right by me. Because that's what we do - the Crew: we supply the technical expertise. Actually, when I wear a free T-shirt that says CREW on a film, I can't work out whether the DP (Director of Photography) is really Crew or Management. Anyhow, the DP, Operator (maybe the same person) and the Script Supervisor can work out how to shoot the film with the Director. Directors who dictate everything are really boring to work with - especially when they are nasty. If they are a Brilliant One people forgive them, but if they are just dull, then they don't.
Directors have 6 phases of collaboration to make a movie. This involves the following procedures, amongst a ton of other things.
1. Collaboration with the Producer(s) (or themselves).
2. Collaboration with the Writer(s) (or themselves.)
Pre-Production & Shooting
3. Collaboration with the Production, Costume & Make-Up .
4. Collaboration with the Cinematographer.
5. Collaboration with the Editor & Composer.
6. Collaboration with Marketing (or not!).
Unfortunately Development sometimes takes years and doesn't get paid, so it's a good idea to keep that Cafe Job during this period. Pre-production is an exciting period because there arises the possibility that the film you've been working on for years might actually be shot. Shooting is even more exciting because it's the REAL THING, the PARTY. Some directors hate shooting because of this. They like to be holed up with the material and play with it in the peace and quiet of the cutting room. Shooting is exciting because you get to see what the writer wrote on the screen. You get to go on location, travel in Business Class, and stay for free in Nice Hotels (sometimes.) And there is DCOL (doesn't Count on Location) Sex - so I'm told.
One of the crosses I have to bear is that I’d rather be a Composer than a DP. Unfortunately I've only composed about 3 tunes in 50 years which wouldn’t really pay the mortgage. I am more jealous of Composers than any other person in film, because these people don't need a hi-fi to hear music — what a gift! Composing for film I would rate as qualifying for the word Artist, as Music for Film stands on it's own outside of the film, just as The Script does (and everything else doesn't). You don't need to think about being a Composer — you either are one or you aren't. And don't forget being a Composer is different to being a Musician, or mucking about on a Guitar. Strangely enough, some Composers can't write music, but rely on others to do it for them from their ideas. These people are more like Producers, and sometimes come from a DJ background.
If you look into the history of the great film composers, you will see that you have to have it "built-in" from birth, and then work very very hard to secure a career.
I had a Guestbook entry (2009) from Hannah Bernstein who said this:
I think you may have overlooked the position of "Music Editor" which I think is rather valuable in film. While this job is often performed by Sound Editors in smaller features, larger pictures tend to designate a specific "Music Editor" (and often multiple music editors) to cut a composer''s music to fit a film.
Often big name composers will have a designated music editor, much like a big name star will have a designated makeup artist. Tom Newman works with Bill Bernstein (my uncle), James Horner works with Dick Bernstein (my father)... I suppose perhaps it runs in families, like you say the prop department does. I have yet to see.
Oh, another thing. Sometimes big budget movies will have "temp dubs" where they'll have the music editor score a movie with bits and pieces of collected other works that suit the film, so they can screen it before a composer has completed original music for the film. It also can give the composer ideas for a film.
Hope that was illuminating to someone... be forewarned though, if you're thinking of breaking into this facet of the industry, prepare to spend a few years in what's essentially an apprenticeship with a specific composer. You'll get paid assistant's wages for learning a highly-skilled job, and probably have to deal with moody people and a lot of film politics (everyone has an opinion about the music... you have to do a lot of fancy footwork to both appease the director and not cut too much into the composer's fancy score). Oh, plus, there's very, very few of these guys actually getting reliable work, what with the fact that it's such a nuanced position. Basically, find someone talented and ride that train, or you'll be stuck in temp dubs forever.
You can see some illustrations of studio recording in progress here.
I would love to be a film editor (if I can't be a Director or a Composer).
I spent a year cutting a film of my own once a long time ago. It was absolutely fascinating! But I couldn't take being locked up in a room with monitors all over the place for weeks, months and years on end so it's not for me really. Editors are incredibly important to the film process as they can literally save a film from catastrophe. They don't get a lot of credit in Public but the industry really values a Brilliant Editor. If you like putting images together on computer and playing with sound/image combinations then you may be on the road to being an Editor. There are lots of very intellectual books written about film editing. Good luck reading them. Actually, there are a lot of intellectual books written about film: this isn't one of them.
I have to love the editor who is cutting a film I shoot, because all my hard work winds up in his or her hands. Occasionally an editor cuts a film against the way it is shot, which is a catastrophe and never works. Mostly editors improve enormously what was shot in the first place by juxtaposing it in the right way and adding all sorts of ideas that were never thought of during the shooting. It's a fascinating job, but you have to like sitting down a lot, and persuading all sorts of people that your way is the right way.
The Sound Editor is also a crucial part of the editing process (there's an Oscar for this too!). All those sound effects that are added are sometimes very subtle and you'd have to turn the picture off to hear them. In this department all kinds of people contribute both in terms of recording effects for post-production use, and also skillfully blending the final music from the composer into the movie, so that it balances well with the dialogue and effects. It can be a technically very complicated job (lots of nobs and dials!) but also very rewarding if you like listening very very hard and are very smart. You can see some illustrations of studio recording in progress here.
The Gaffer runs the lighting crew, who are called Electricians (UK) or sometimes Lamp Operators ("Lamp Ops" - US). In the UK an Electrician has to actually be a qualified Electrician, whereas in the USA they don't. The Electricians in the UK are responsible for not only putting up the lights, but also any reflectors, nets etc associated with lights. This is daft, and is very slow compared to the US system. But British is Best and so no one appears to be interested in changing the system. There are an increasing number of women working in the USA as Electricians, especially on the East Coast. They are really good, but have disadvantages in being shorter and less strong than men. On the other hand they work really hard, and have boxes they can stand on.
Grips and Electricians on location are not far removed from when the cowboys rode into town in times gone by. They work hard, play hard and are the worlds nicest people. A famous Make-Up artist said to me once when I was talking to her about Male Actors: "Of course, they're not Real Men. Real men are Grips and Electricians." Actors are highly paid, pampered and flattered. Grips and Electricians are moderately paid, work long hours often in appalling conditions and rarely complain. Real Men. But then some actors are real men too, so they're OK.
Publicity and Marketing
This is a very important element of making films, which can make or break the release of a film in terms of box office. I've shot a couple of really good films that no-one went to see because of inadequate marketing, as well as the reverse. Someone should e-mail me with something about this department because I know so little about it. There are people called EPK (Electronic Press Kit) who actually are humans (I think) who lurk about the set - usually on the day when you are shooting a close-up of a newspaper or a frog - then they aren't there the next day when you have 14 cameras and drain the Red Sea. The hapless video cameraperson (note the non-sexist terminology), endlessly rolls tape of people doing very mundane things - then when they try to photograph the Star they get shouted at. They interview the important people - and some of the less important people but they don't use that footage.
The "Making Of...." docos have become very popular on TV and DVD so Marketing people have more to aim for than they used to.
As a sidenote, 90% of the newspapers, magazines, TV stations etc etc are owned by the same few giant companies (who also own the film studios): if you work in this field you cannot, absolutely cannot tell the truth about anything. Publicity and Truth are not on the same page: but if you are attracted to Marketing: Good Luck - someone has to do it.
People who record sound on pictures are often very eccentric. This could be because the job requires a great deal of technical skill, an "artistic" vision, and a thick skin. The latter requirement is very important because no one on the set really cares about sound. This could be for a variety of reasons. One would be that it can be re-done afterwards (called ADR), another would be that it is regarded as secondary to the picture despite the fact that it is 50% of the sensory input of Cinema. Above all the microphone just doesn't have the same "pull" as the lens - put a microphone in front of someone in a public place and you get a very different reaction to concentrating a lens on them. People tend to go mute in subtly different ways when confronted by the camera or the microphone for some deeply mystifying reason. The well known idea that the camera steals your soul applies just as well to microphones, albeit in a different way.
Yesterday (well yesterday a couple of years ago) we filmed a lot of love scenes (for Birthday Girl) and decided to do them without sound. The set was "off-limits" to everyone except the Director, DP, Focus Puller and Make-Up. This had a curiously liberating effect as all the razzmatazz of film technique was left outside the door. We didn't call for quiet as we shot, so everyone in the studio just carried on talking while we shot these breathy love scenes. This is how they shot before sound came along and people had to shut up during the takes. What is interesting is the process is less reverential to the Actors, allowing it to be just one activity on the stage amongst many others. So, over here we have a man sawing a piece of wood, over here the Producer and Production Manager discuss what is wrong with the Catering, and over here (behind the wall) the leading Actor and Actress are pretending to shag each other. Mmmm....
Anyhow, back to the Sound Department. The Recordist is the Chief Honcho, followed by the Boom Swinger who wields the microphone on a long pole across the set (and has long arms and big biceps), and on bigger pictures there is an Assistant who helps. Good Sound Recordists are a great asset to a picture through their good humour and temperament. When you are observing a film set and see someone standing behind the leading Actress with a hand up her skirt, this is only because they are placing a radio mike. This job is often given to the "Dresser" if she is a woman. Some Sound Recordists are permanently in a Bad Mood because they've had a lifetime of abuse, mostly from Cameramen who think they are Gods Gift to the Universe. If you put headphones on your head for 40 years you might feel a bit strange too. A sound recordist called Will Masisak left a pretty funny rant (number 74/75) in my Guestbook recently (Jan 2008) which you might enjoy reading.
For some reason, when people on set who do all kinds of jobs are asked which department they would most like to be in, most of them say the Camera Department. The Camera is the "focus" of cinema, so Sound always plays second fiddle. And, anyway, you can fix it afterwards (but..2010... times they are a' changin').
On the other hand, go to this site and you'll find everything there is to know about recording sound.
There is an interesting essay about "sound design" HERE.
This is a very interesting department that is often maligned (special defects etc), but does require a wide ranging knowledge of all kinds of things from guns to building bridges to rigging explosions, flipping cars and, (ugh) making smoke. It often is populated with really talented interesting people who make everyone feel very safe and when they press the button, something goes bang in just the way they said it would. Occasionally, something goes bang in just the way they said it wouldn't and you have one less camera on the shoot and hopefully no injuries. You have to be the kind of person who got given a tractor when you were three and immediately pulled it apart to see how it works. There are very few (any?) women working in this area, probably because women have more sense and don't feel like pulling everything to pieces. Like props, quite a lot of families work in special effects, and a good job they do.
If you're interested in this department, drop by the effects lock-up (the place they work) and show the guys your latest radio controlled amphibious tractor/submarine that you built out of elastic bands and sticky tape. You might find they like you. If you can't figure out how to get past the gate at the studio there's easy ways to do this. Borrow a beaten-up old van, and put clothes on that you last used to decorate your house. Put a pile of old paint brushes on the passenger seat and wave as you go past the security guard. Find out the name of any of the productions shooting at the studio, and if they ask, quote the name and say you're "helping the scenic". Good luck figuring out what that means.
The above was written in 2001. Nowadays (2007) it might not work anymore. Now you have to wear a suit and look like an Executive. Go to security and tell them you are visiting "The Bond" or whatever else big production is on the lot. Find out what studio is making the picure. When the security guard rings the PA (remember this is the job you want!), have him say it is "Jeff" from "Disney" (substitute studio name). There are so many executives visiting these days: the chances are you'll be through!
Once through, change your clothes as Effects Guys don't wear suits.
Further Update: (2009). Unfortunately all of the above is no longer true as the gates of every studio are now patrolled by armed guards with sub-machine guns. In the USA you need a "drive-on" which means that someone needs to have pe-approved you to go through the hallowed gates. At the gate they ask for "picture-id" and once they've entered your entire life into their computer system they print out a series of permits - for the car, your case, your coat etc etc. Then you deliver this permit to another guy with a sub-machine gun and, on a good day, they might let you in.
So maybe don't try the old van thing: they might shoot you.
Curiously I left this section out on the first go: curious because that is how I started in the business way back when in Cape Town. A gentleman called Lightning Bear sent me an e-mail reminding me of my omission - so a thank you to him for taking me back to my own past.
This job is the most lonely on a film set, because you a department of 1, and you are not making the film, unlike the rest of the crew. You are, however, a vital and important contributor to the film, as publicity relies heavily on your work in promoting the film. The problems for the stills person are:
1. You get in the way - to varying degrees.
2. Most actors treat you like dirt for some strange reason.
3. No matter how friendly you are, you still get treated like an outsider.
4. No-one who you are working with sees your work, and those who do see it aren't on the set so they have no idea what you went through to get the photos they so casually throw in the bin. (See Publicity above).
The good news is that if you have enough sense of yourself to get through a lifetime of abuse, they might give you a really big exhibition and a huge coffee table book full of your photos, although you may already be too weak to lift it! This is definitely the hardest job in the industry to pull off without falling into a full-time depression. I really respect still photographers.
I recently (2010) started putting some of my photographs in a gallery on the web.
You can see them here: Oliver's Photographs
Index Visual Effects
You can get an Oscar for this, and it is a fascinating and growing area of Film Making, so you would still be working if no films go on location in 50 years because it's all done on the computer. I'm trying to get a pal to write for this section but they're all too busy working. The skills you need are high order graphic computer skills and a lot of patience: as well as the ability to draw painstaking frame-by-frame mattes around some actors wispy hair when they suddenly decide the monster should appear behind him instead of beside him. The latest Star Wars (2002) shows what happens when you shoot digitally and then scale everyone into a group shot. Each person's face "artifacts" in a different way. Very disturbing to me, but still makes a whole ton of money!
I recently shot Casanova (2005) for Lasse Hallstrom and there are 160 VFX shots in it, so times are changing. I also did my first 4k DI (Digital Intermediate) on this film which I thoroughly enjoyed.
The Waterhorse (2007) became my real intro to VFX. Lucky enough I worked with the Weta Digital team in New Zealand - the people who brought us Lord of the Rings and King Kong. This was a real break for me: to learn from and collaborate with the likes of Joe Letteri was a real treat.
Creating "Crusoe" (the Loch Ness Monster) was a truly collaborative process with a terrific end result. Again, it all comes down to PRE-VISUALISATION. All the decisions we made at the beginning led to all the good stuff that's in the film. There are some pictures if you click the link at the top of the document.
I have just finished "timing" The Proposal (2009). This was shot in Boston but takes place in Alaska (!). This is now "normal" for film-making. You go and shoot where the tax breaks are strongest and if the landscape bears no resemblance to where the film is set, you just change the backgrounds in post-production. This would have seemed insane just a few years ago, but now is common. The "Alaska" we created bears some resemblance to the "Real Alaska" but the film is a Hollywood Romantic Comedy: it's not a documentary. The Visual Effects Company naturally had a lot of work to do replacing backgrounds. These are now mostly shot on Digital Stills or a Red Camera if movement is required. It was a huge amount of work and most of it quite successful. However, whilst I love the scope and possibilities of Visual Effects work, there is still no substitute for planning it out properly in pre-production, and working out the best technical solutions for the particular film.
I went to Alaska for a week to shoot some second Unit: as it turns out I think it was a good decision not to go there with the main unit. The weather was terrible and actually the Alaska we created is a much more magical place than the Alaska I visited! Another experience that adds to my belief that there is nothing sacred in the world of film-making or photography: except to Get it Right!
The world of Visual Effects is the fastest growing, most important area of Big Budget film-making today. It is essential to understand what is possible and what is not.. DP's and Designers have to take on the fact that the Visual Effects Superviser may have the last word on what is on the screen if you don't pay attention!
Here is an amusing account of working in the VFX industry.