What I Really Want to Do Is Direct, Part I

By Lenny Manzo, posted 22 April 2010

Upon entering the film business everyone wants to direct, unfortunately there are not that many jobs available compared to the amount of people who want them. If directing is something you think would be fun or cool, you would be right. However, this is not the right approach; it has to be a true calling for you. You really have to want it more than anything else.

You need drive, knowledge and vision. First you have to have the drive to get where you want to go. Anything besides total commitment will not bring success. It is similar to professional athletes, they have a specific focus and the good ones put in the time perfecting their skills.

Knowledge, that is obvious, without it you are nothing. One way or another you need to learn the craft thoroughly. This would include reading books and more books, taking classes, workshops and most of all getting hands on set experience. The only way you can cruise in this business if your uncle is an executive at Warner Brothers. If you are not that hooked up you will be forced to work and learn. Vision is the most elusive of the three. You can develop your talent by learning and doing, but you must see the whole movie play out in your head and be able relay that vision to your actors and your key crafts people.

Ok, you know you have drive, you’re soaking knowledge up like a sponge and you have vision, what next? What are you going to make? Can you write your own scripts or do you need a screenwriter? If you can't write, it is going to be a little harder. You’ll have to find scripts or get a partner to write for you. It's easier to find a good lover than a good screenwriter. Either way you have to have a good script. It all starts with the script. Without a script you got nothin'.

Before embarking on your first feature you should make a short. Go through the whole process on a small scale. When you see all the problems you have on your short multiply that by 10 for your feature. Get the bugs out early don't rush into a movie. It's better to take the ten thousand dollars you have and put it toward making a good short then trying to stretch your budget and coming up with a bad feature. There are very few El Mariachi's out there. I know this is a rags to riches biz but, you can't believe it's going to happen to you. Make your mistakes on something small. Even if you have access to cash, you don't want to botch it and ruin your financial connection. You may be able convince someone to back your film once, but without financial success they won't do it again.

As you make your way to the director's chair I recommend becoming the director's assistant for large movies. To be able to trail a director for a whole movie would be invaluable. First you would be able to learn so much from a seasoned pro and you would get to see how the whole machine operates at the top. As the directors assistant you will also constantly be around all the muckety mucks. Not only will you be learning you will be making potential contacts for the future. Find out what movies are coming to your area call the production and apply for that position. It is not easy but, not as hard as you think. What a director is looking for in an assistant is someone who is intelligent, can carry out tasks and someone who listens. You can do that, you just have to convince the director you can do that.

Another approach is to produce. If you become a successful producer you can segue into directing or you can produce your own work right from the beginning. In today's competitive world you are forced to take some role as a producer to get your movies made. It would only make you a better director to understand the nuts and bolts of what it takes to put a movie together. It's good to know reality from fantasy. Many people try to make a movie that is bigger than their means. You must learn how to work within your budget and resources.

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