The most glamorous job in the film industry is that of a film director. Everyone wants to direct. There are seven deadly sins film directors make (even the experienced ones). Avoid these and you stand an excellent chance of launching your career.
Seven Deadly Sins Film Directors Make
1. Striving for perfection
Directors, particularly new ones, believe they have to be perfectionists. No. Films exist because of constant compromise. Compromise is key. A director’s talent is the quality of his/her compromises. Combined these compromises become your signature.
2. Burn the Budget
OK, there are two ways of looking at this.
A. Make sure you use all the money you have (and a bit more if you can).
B. Don’t fool yourself into thinking the budget determines the quality of your film. It certainly determines the production value, and therefore possibly distribution and how many people you reach, but NOT the quality.
3. Only good scripts become good films
Dialogue is nothing more than body language, the same value as the way a character walks, or their smile, or their clothes. Plot is a vehicle with a flat tire a few days later. The only three things that make a film:
A. An interesting vision of the director.
B. Making the right shots (the camera tells the story, not the script).
C. A good story of course (which you stumble on while you shoot the film based on a bad story).
4. Sex, Drugs and Filmmaking
There is no good way of making a film. Peckinpah was a drunk. Perhaps Spielberg sniffs coke like perfume. They’re not bad filmmakers. Some directors are miserable tyrants, misogynists, or empathetic to a fault but still profess to love their children. Talent is like cancer. It moves into a person without any prejudice.
5. Personal Films are a Must
See, I believe that’s true. But it’s a bit the same as saying: “There’ll be sunshine after the rain.” It may very well be true, but there’s nothing you can do about it. You, as a director, can only be what you are. Every filmmaker makes personal films. Every one of them. Only the audience perceives some more as personal than others mostly because the audience is pre-conditioned and brainwashed. In fifty years it may very well be different.
6. Be nice to your crew
I distrust directors who treat their crew like close family (and usually treat their close family like a crew).
Filmmaking has a selfish side and you better believe it. Be fair, be stern if needed, kind if possible, but never pretend you’re there for anything else than making your film. You’re not there to hold hands and sing kumbaya at the close of each shoot day. If you don’t fake, the crew will love you more in the end.
7. Who cares?
In the light of the universe and eternity nothing matters. But we live in the now, and to me the now matters. If you can make a film that excites people (even just a few), gives them a thought, an emotion or something that holds beauty you have achieved something valuable. You have communicated and have given value to your existence and that of others. That’s a treasure you can be proud of.
Ate de Jong presents a film directing masterclass at Raindance in London. In this weekend class De Jong will show you the tricks and traps of the trade he has learned from his own experience making two dozen films in Europe and Hollywood. Film directing masterclass details can be found here.