During the Munich Short Film Festival Mark W. Travis, the film director, ran one of his workshops called “The Director’s Journey”. I attended the workshops and found it useful. Below are some pointers, thoughts and ideas from the workshops which I thought I would share with you.
WHY AM I MAKING THIS MOVIE? – This is a vital question that needs to be asked before you decide to make a movie.
Once you know the exact answer to this question, you can get going with pre-production. Otherwise, it may be difficult to work at all.
THE NINE BASIC STEPS OF FILM DIRECTING BY MARK W. TRAVIS
1. What is the story really about, FOR YOU? (What can I say? Every day my story changes. I, as the director, need to maintain a high level of energy going within the crew.)
2. What is the scene about?
3. Why is this scene in the movie? (What would you lose if the scene wasn’t in the film?)
4. What must I, as a director, achieve within this scene so that it will function properly within the movie? (vision: What does the scene bring to the film?)
5. What are the character objectives, obstacles, arcs, means, actions, activities, adjustments, windows of true nature (What is going on within the character?), risks, stakes, etc.?
6. How can I direct and stage the scene to clarify and underline the essential dynamics within the scene?
7. How can I capture (record) this scene to enhance the basic dynamics of the scene? (What is the event that is worth shooting)
8. How do I rediscover the story that is contained within the material I have created? (Discover the movie you are making. It will be the best version of your story.)
9. How do I reassemble this material to create the most dynamic version of my story?
The Director and The Script
1. As a director, you need to ask yourself once again why you want to turn this particular script into a movie.
2. Read the script. While reading the script stop your brain working on the shoots or staging and hold yourself back to be able to understand what the script is really about.
3. Start forming a relationship with the story. (How the story relates to your life? Can you see similarities between the story and your life? How the story affects you? What do you feel reading the story? Etc.)
4. The script needs to be analysed scene by scene for the director’s vision to be clarified.
5. You need to do the script breakdown to be able to analyse the script.
6. It is essential to know what the protagonists’ journey is throughout the script?
7. The story is in the characters, and the characters must be doing something. So the audience can see what journey the characters are going through, how the journey affects them and whether they are going in the direction they wanted to go.
8. Inciting incident – this is some incident that happens to the protagonist and turns his/her life upside down; to propel the character on a journey. It usually happens at the beginning of the script or just before the script started, and we learn about this later on in the script.
9. In every script each character has flaws, and the director’s job is to find each character’s flaws.
The character must fight with his/her flaws during the story.
10. The Scene Objective is essential to be clear to the director to achieve everything that it is possible to obtain within the scene.
Don’t make the assumptions that what happens in the scene is an objective to drive the character. Often the objective is much broader and hidden.
11. When the scene doesn’t sit incorrectly, it doesn’t fulfil the targeted objective. The writer would either have to change the scene, or the scene would have to be deleted from the script/film. As a director, you see that the scene is not right and have to make the right decision.
12. Only actors can deal with the overall objective of the script since only actors know what will happen to the character. The character doesn’t know that.
13. Characters make adjustments all the time, day and night to make their journey more interesting.
14. In a script usually, one problem ends, and another begins to push the plot of the story forward.
15. Don’t give the audience what they want straight away, give it at the very end. If you provide them with everything at the beginning, they probably will not want to watch the rest of the film.
16. To be realistic the movie or the script has to be a lot like real life. The characters’ behaviour has to be like in real life too, to be believable to the audience.
Terms for characters and actors.
Objective – what the character is trying to achieve throughout the movie
– Public (conscious)
– Private (unconscious)
Obstacles – getting in the way to achieve what the character wants
– Other characters
– Environment (physical & social)
The Gap is Objective = expectation vs result
The actor & the character
Left brain Right brain
– Knowledgeable – Naive
– Omniscient – Unaware
– In control – Out of control
– Objective – Objective
– Obstacles – Obstacles
1.Direct the character, not the actor.
2. Try to make the scene work each time differently.
3. You need to work out the reality and the truth with the character, not the actor.
4. Each character takes a risk; it’s an internal nature of the character. To make it more interesting, the risks need to be more intense.
5. The window of true nature – it happens during the performance when something intense happens inside the character. It usually lasts for a second or two. However the longer the character stays in the window of true nature the faker it becomes.
6. For the director, the most important tool is staging so use it well to express your story (Staging is the character’s relation to other characters and camera.)
7. Look for the core moments with the character and this way you will be able to discover what the scene is really about.
8. Discover what the main character expects from other characters.
9. As a director, you often shape the performance in post-production. That’s why it’s important to have a lot of material to choose from.
10. Don’t talk to and direct the actor, talk to and direct the character.
11. As a director, you need to shoot down the actor’s brain.
12. While rehearsing don’t talk to the actor, talk to the character. Ask the character (not the actor) all the questions you need to ask about the character.
13. Take the actor into the character’s world, help to coach the actor without a plan for the scene.
14. While walking onto the set with the actors give them a topic to talk about (this is a concentration exercise). On the word “action”, the actors dive into their characters.
15. Bracketing – it means “slightly different each time”. Before every take, you need to send characters back with a different attitude, give them different approaches to the scene. This way the actor can give you a range of material, and while editing, you can choose which way to go.
16. Editing a film is like a rehearsal process in the theatre.
17. Look for small moments and see how a little information can change/trigger the change in the character.
18. Emotional trigger – happens by taking one element (it might be anything: a word, an image etc.) to create a whole new emotion.
19. Don’t push the actors outside his/her comfort zone.
20. Create special boundaries within which you give your actors total freedom to be creative.
21. Director needs to be, just like an actor, able to improvise with the actor and see where the improvisation is going to take him.
1. Give the actors (always as characters) tasks to do and observe what is happening between them.
2. Use an element of surprise – physical action to surprise the character.
3. While you work with the actors, throw them little tasks.
4. If something doesn’t work, reframe your idea.
5. Don’t care what the actor thinks about the character.
6. The deeper you get into feelings, the more complex everything that happens on the screen becomes.
7. Never talk about the scene send actors as characters into the scene. The scene will happen on its own.
8. The characters don’t know they are in a movie.
9. The director is the committee and has to judge whether the rehearsal is going in the right direction or if it’s getting off track. If it’s getting off track, change the information you have been giving to the characters.
10. If for some reason the scene or exercise is not working, change the information you provided and see what happens.
11. You can be brutal on the characters, and the actors will feel safe. You can tell anything you want to the character, and the actor will not feel upset or offended.
1. Ask the general character questions, anything you want. These questions are designed for general knowledge (ex. I want to know if you are a vegetarian or not.)
2. After the first initial “getting to know you” try to get deeper into the characters. Ask more personal questions.
3. After a few first exercises try to send the characters into the scene and see what happens, how the energy shifts and how different the scene looks from the initial reading.
4. While rehearsing or shooting a scene use bracketing – (It means to give the actors a topic to talk about before sending the characters back to the scene to trigger relevant emotions. Each topic will trigger a different feeling.)
5. Behind the characters’ actions and words are all the desires they want to say but don’t know-how.
6. The easiest way to get the history of the characters out is to ask questions during the rehearsals.
7. Get the characters to talk at the same time or one talk at a time depending on what you want to achieve. Try a variety of approaches.
Director & the Production & Crew
1. 7 am – 7 pm
2. Daily news(what is going to happen during the day)
3. First rehearsal is mostly done for staging.
4. Everyone is on the set to shoot.
6. The crew has to be focused.
7. Divide the shots into three categories A, B & C to be clear what you need and what you might get if there is still time.
A. List of shoots – If you don’t have this scene, you won’t be able to complete the film. This list is a must.
B. List of shoots – The shoots I would like to get. If we get this, I (the director) would be pleased.
C. List of shoots – If we have time left over.(Which almost never happens, however, the crew will work towards this aim), it would be fantastic to get these shots.
8. Get the crew involved as much as possible. This will make the crew happy and willing to work with you.
9. Remember that all the planning is done in pre-production so do it well. This way you save loads of time and money during the production.
10. Be transparent with your crew, so they know what you are doing all the time.
11. Keep everyone working all of the time. Make sure that nobody waits for you (the director) or the actors.
12. The take doesn’t have to be perfect; in fact, it means nothing since you will cut it in post-production anyway. So don’t try to achieve the impossible.
13. You need to decide and be confident about what you are going for in the setup. So you are clear about this with your crew.
TIP for PRE_PRODUCTION
Try to storyboard with still cameras.