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How Can I Be A Young Director?

Zach Goodwin2

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I didn’t watch the short since I am in a rush to an appt. I’ll check it out later…

But responding to the initial question, Imo, if you don’t have a particular story to tell (you do, but maybe your natural medium isn’t a screenplay), have a particular way of telling a story:

•Watch Spielberg films and focus on how his camera placement and camera motion correspond to how characters feel. What is the emotional center of the scene? Where is the camera in relation to it? (Consider focal length: a CU isn't just a CU–it could be shot with a wide lens right in someone’s face or a telephoto lens from across the street.) How does emotion relate to what characters want? We get emotional about our needs... Focus on emotion and how Spielberg draws you into moments of wonder and drama, but provides distance on moments of tragedy or comedy through blocking and camera placement. Notice how he integrates the gags (whether CGI or practical) into the medium shot, but doesn’t rely too heavily on POV shots. He keeps you close to the characters, without making you "one" of them. He's very transparent and classical. He puts you in the world with his characters without directly putting you in their eyes. Watch how Saving Private Ryan’s opening puts you into the battle even before there’s a particular soldier with whom you’re aligned. What he’s doing is complex and subtle, and probably mostly intuitive. He uses POV shots, he just uses them differently from Hitchcock. So just do what feels right!

•Watch Hitchcock films and focus on how his camera placement corresponds to what characters see.

(Consider range of narration and plot vs story–what characters get the most POV shots and when do you know more or less than a character. The “master of suspense” is often aligning you closely with the protagonist to make you sympathetic… then giving you a more omniscient range of narration from time to time to create suspense. Read the “bomb under the table” quote about suspense vs surprise.)

•Watch Fincher films and focus on how his camera placement corresponds to what characters know. Who is the protagonist of the story? Who is moving the story forward at any given time? Who knows the most information at any given time? What’s in the box? And why do we find out at the same time as Brad Pitt (instead of Fincher choosing suspense and telling us before hand)? Why does he choose surprise here? To me, the Fincher protagonist is whoever knows the most at any given time. I feel like Gone Girl and Seven change protagonists halfway through… or repeatedly... in that sense. I think Dan Harmon and David Fincher both like to focus on the smartest person in the room. No surprise, those guys are really smart lol.

•Watch how Peter Jackson shoves the camera right up the face–generally with a wide angle lens–of whatever is scariest or grossest in a given scene. Why does he shock you and gross you out so well?

•Watch how David Lynch taps into subconscious patterns, frequencies, loops, in story, visuals, and sound design. How does he get into your subconscious so well? His films, to me, are more similar to music and painting. More abstract. Read his “eye of the duck” quote and consider how he structures each scene around a particular detail, each movie around a particular scene, etc. etc. I think with him it’s very intuitive and abstract, but there is a repeatable process nonetheless. I just don’t think it works if you try too hard to emulate it and think about it. Doesn’t mean it isn’t worth thinking about at all... but if studying this stuff doesn't interest you, probably don't bother.

Just think: “let me show you something.” What do you show and how? To whom? How do you see the world that’s different from how other people see the world? Who are those other people you want to share your vision with? Why? Try to meet them half way and show them in a way that’s personal to you, but accessible to them. That’s you see the world uniquely. That’s your voice. It’s your personality. Ultimately, part of this is a popularity contest. But you can choose your clique… and how true to be to yourself...

Or if you know the story you want to tell, simply tell it, and the rest will evolve naturally. I suspect none of the people I mentioned above are laboring over the choices I mentioned. They’re simply acting intuitively, true to themselves. Be yourself, but be cognizant of your audience. Make them want to spend time with you, or show them something no one else can. I love Tim and Eric and Lars von Trier. Those guys aren’t making palatable content. But that’s the point. They’re agitators. If you're an agitator, agitate.

I remember you mentioned before that your strength was visuals. That you were doing similar things to Kendy Ty? That might be even easier to get started with, but it’s a different trajectory than feature film director imo. (At first at least.) Maybe get into branded content, music videos, try to get a staff pick, etc. If your friends and you walk down the street snapping photos and yours are the most beautiful, that’s your voice and your strength right there! Translate it into videos and start posting them on Vimeo and hounding everyone you know to try to get a staff pick. Obviously connections matter, this is a social medium after all. Network. I hate networking...

There are a million different avenues–festivals, YouTube, sneaking into some director’s office, etc. No one can help provide those specifics until you provide the specifics of what you want to do. And even then we’ll get it wrong. But it’s not too different from social media–why did you put this on Instagram vs 500 px? Why did you submit to Cannes rather than Sundance?

I 100% appreciate the problems you’re struggling with. I have scripts that are too big for me to shoot on my own, and it’s hard for me to recruit enough people to produce them. But that has to be a part of the conversation, too. FIND people who like your stories. If they don’t like them, find out why–is your story bad or did you just find the wrong audience? Maybe it’s GREAT but they’re envious of it or disagree politically. Still a (potentially) bad collaborator, even if they're a good person and it's a good script. Maybe it needs work (mine do) and your friend is confused. Explain it to them until they get it, then incorporate those changes onto the page. The process of getting the film made starts with communicating your ideas to your first audience–your collaborators. The process ends with you communicating your ideas to a larger audience–your viewers. Build your audience slowly. Build your voice. Start small. And focus on the journey.

That said, I struggle with the same stuff. It’s not easy. It’s why, for more ambitious projects, I’m focusing more and more on writing. Not my strength, but if the ideas aren’t there in the script, they’re going to be harder to get across in the final thing and I'm too busy now to devote my life to making weird magnum opuses. Sometimes I wonder how David Lynch got a huge crew together to make Eraserhead. That movie apparently had next to no script and it's bizarre, but this guy was so magnetic that he got people to spend five years filming it. And the movie is amazing. I would seriously doubt he would win any popularity contests based on his films, but here he is directing my favorite tv show. (Admittedly more a cult classic.) Be true to yourself. Act in good faith and with confidence and the two will reinforce each other and grow.

Or if you cynically just want to be a director to say you’re a director, study Brett Ratner’s career. That's true to what that guy wanted. And it worked! 

And more than anything, be confident.

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21 hours ago, Zach Goodwin2 said:

I finished making the sock puppet skit.




After every project it's good to think about what worked, what didn't work, and what you might do differently next time.  

Join us over in the 3 Hour 1 Minute film challenge thread :)



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This sock-puppet sketch reminds me of some of the skits my friends and I used to make...wow, started almost 30 years ago now.  

We actually had a weekly recurring sock-puppet character that was part of the "sitcom" segments of our sketch show.  He was our apartment complex neighbor that kept complaining about the noise next door.

We were doing stuff mostly for public access TV or local PBS on and off from 91-96.  It was pretty fun because it allowed me to hone the craft.  We started doing things on a Video Toaster w/low-end-sloppy-editing tape decks, and at the conclusion we were using Premiere 1.0, hand coding HTML for a website, and uploading RealMedia 320x240 videos to the "world-wide-super-information-highway."  

(and, honestly, that first versions of Premiere was a more stable version of the current one - plus we were in the 1st U.S. market with consumer high speed internet; faster than what I have now!)

My brother uploaded all that video nonsense on Facebook a few years ago.  It's all embarrassing as hell, but that's to be expected unless you're lucky enough to be a bit of an talented artistic savant.  Which, I can assure you, we were not. 

I should share that so you can see that silliness.  30 years hasn't been kind to my young sense of humor, I'll tell you that much!

Point is, even though I cringe when I watch the stupidity we thought was "so cool," I'm still proud that we actually went out and managed to somehow do that stuff DIY, especially back in the day when video gear and editing systems were incredibly expensive.  Like, real gear was mid six-figure expensive.  Somehow us broke-ass-blue-collar-kids cobbled things together with anything we could get our hands on. 

Anyway, keep making things.  Ideas that are realized make a difference somehow and someway; even if it's just fond memories of youth from an old guy.  Ideas that never get made don't.

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56 minutes ago, IronFilm said:

Then proceeds to write an essay....    :joy:;)

Heh, I taught myself to type at 130wpm to help with essays... I guess I never stopped. I was only a minute late for the appt!

I watched the short since, though. You didn't need my essay at all, I think you answered your own question very well. My apology again for the rant.

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59 minutes ago, kye said:

Everyone knows it takes less time editing to make a longer film..  same in writing :)

Again, my apologies. I'm putting myself on time out for a while.

I should have watched the short first; I ended up writing something more to myself, I think, than to Zach, and that's a disservice to him and to the forum, but I was just trying to share my enthusiasm for some directors who inspired me. 

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2 hours ago, HockeyFan12 said:

Again, my apologies. I'm putting myself on time out for a while.

I should have watched the short first; I ended up writing something more to myself, I think, than to Zach, and that's a disservice to him and to the forum, but I was just trying to share my enthusiasm for some directors who inspired me. 

I wouldn't apologise..  more info is sometimes useful, and in a world dominated by people that can't even be bothered to include all the letters in each word, someone that speaks in sequences of sentences should be applauded rather than criticised. 

If it's too long for anyone, they don't have to read it :)

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On 3/18/2019 at 5:59 AM, IronFilm said:

"If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter."




I'm sorry, again. Is there a moderator who could delete my original post? I didn't realize how out of line this was. 

What I'm even more ashamed of is I still don't know what parts I would have left out. :/ 

I bumped into an old friend who, since I last saw him, had success in the film industry as a producer, and he asked that if I email him in the future, to be sure to keep it short. Out of respect for his accomplishments, I told him I'd be sure to. 

When I write such a long post here, I realize it's an insult to all of you in that I won't show you the same respect I promised him.

But it wasn't my intention. In school I'd always try to write a lot, but there I was the one paying to have my writing looked at... I felt I was being generous by writing a lot–but it was the opposite dynamic. 

I apologize for being so selfish. If a mod can please delete my post, I would appreciate it. 

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Reframe your question: "How can I learn to become a director?" Sometimes it's awesome to learn from other folk. Finding people who may be able to mentor and guide you in the right direction. These folk have been more than amazing at encouraging you to practice your work, but you made so many excuses. You made one video and then dropped out of the face of the earth. You gotta practice, practice, practice, put yourself out there, and leave your ego at the door.

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I've been trying to find people to partner with to make films for a long time... You CAN do it alone.. and I made 6 films that way, hoping it would help me meet people to work with. It did not. It is a little bit of a dead end to make films alone forever. There are mediums where you can actually work alone - novels, comic books, and animation are all on par with film, or better in some ways. Film requires the most resources. Novels are the hardest to find an audience for. I might only be a cartoonist now, and not a filmmaker. Cartooning takes the most practice and time (sort of). And still no audience, but I can finally make my stuff.

I do think there's an issue right now where people are not trying to partner with amateurs. A director who might go somewhere and an actor who might go somewhere, if they can communicate, should spend all their time together. But the amount of time both are just saying "no" back and forth is crazy. This is part of the reason that the "don't work for free" trend bugs the shit out of me. Mildly successful filmmakers are all just super popular - they have a little posse who worship them, they can raise stupid amounts on kickstarter, and they don't let anyone else in. So, I hope this was helpful and tragic.

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