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Top 5 Mistakes Film Directors Make

Directing an Indie film isn't easy. Everyone who has directed an indie knows that between budgeting, building your team, casting, and scheduling... the life of a film director is tough.

The good news is that most of the stress, whether on or off set can be avoided by not making the mistakes mentioned below!


1. The Director Doesn't Know How To Properly Talk To Actors

This is the mistake I see almost every director starting out (and some who've been doing it for years) make at some point. Let me give you an example... You're directing a scene where a woman loses her child in a car wreck. She isn't giving you what you want so you tell her to "be sadder" or "more sad". This is called "Result Oriented Direction" and it is WRONG.

Result Oriented Direction appeals to a single baseless emotion that doesn't give the actor anything to go off of. One of your jobs as a director is to describe in detail what you are looking for in an actor's performance, and by telling the actor to act "more sad" you're not being detailed at all.

On top of Result Oriented Direction, the director might also just be a jerk. Actor's love working with director who...

  1. Have a vision.

  2. Can communicate that vision.

  3. Is not full of himself or herself.

You have to see yourself and the actor as equal artists trying to bring a singular vision to the big screen. You ABSOLUTELY cannot talk down to actors. All the actor wants to do is deliver your vision, and if you aren't talking to them like equals that will hurt their feelings and the performance.


2. Line Reading

I guarantee you've heard a director line read before. It's one of the top mistakes a director can make and it's extremely offensive to the actor. Line reading is when the actor isn't giving the director what they wants to the director says... "No, no. Say it like this..." and delivers the line to the actor how they want the actor to deliver the line.

The director is saying two things by line reading.

  1. He or she doesn't know how to communicate his or her vision properly so they have to resort to showing the actor what they want.

  2. The director is saying he or she can do the actor's job (which they most likely cannot).

Line reading is an absolute no go. Trust me on that.

When I was getting my master's degree at Savannah College of Art & Design Film School #SCADfilm I often would hear my fellow classmates line read to the student actors. I only knew it was wrong because I got my bachelor's degree from Florida State University #GoNoles and my directing professor DRILLED it into my head to never line read because it's the most offensive thing you can do to an actor.

My point is... it's a very easy black hole to slip into if you aren't told to not do it. You don't realize how offensive it is until you ask the actor to perform in your next project and they deny.


3. The Director Doesn't Hold Rehearsals

This is a good way to shoot yourself in the foot if you're a director and want to get each shot in only a few takes.


I promise I will never shoot a scene without rehearsing it at least twenty-four hours beforehand.

Performance is hard, and whether you've been directing for a while or just started you know that the actor won't hit the mark you set every time. Rehearsals are a great way to expel any nervous energy both you or the actor might have about the scene. The actor will practice his or her lines on their own before the shoot but rehearsals allow you to explain your vision to them in a non-stressful environment.

If you wait till the day of the shoot to direct performances, expect to be rushed and expect the footage to not come out as great as you want it to. It's that plain and simple.

To maintain budget, you absolutely need to keep on time. Time truly is money in filmmaking, and if your scene isn't prepared I guarantee you will go overtime.


4. The Director Shoots "Coverage"

Let's talk about "coverage", what it is, and why it's so damning to a film and artistic vision.

My personal definition of coverage is filming the entire scene in multiple long shots, where the camera is places somewhat randomly because the director has no artistic vision. Every true film director storyboards their film "shot by shot". Shot by shot is the correct way you're supposed to make a movie. You take the scene written for you, envision it, and basically edit each scene in your head.

Coverage is a common way someone shoots a film quickly. It shows that they don't care about the psychology of their audience (how your film makes your audience feel). Your audience will quickly get bored of your movie because the editor will only have coverage to use.

We will go into the psychology of the audience in another article, but for right now I will tell you that directing is all about being a good psychologist. You constantly have to play with your audiences emotions and get strategic with how you make them feel at different points in the story. It's your job as the storyteller.

Anyway, shot by shot is the only way to go, which leads me to...


5. The Director Doesn't See Their Film As Art

Every shot has to have a purpose. You, as the director, need to see your film as a painting on a canvas.

Every stroke an artist makes with a brush, is equal to a shot you get with your camera. Strokes make up a painting, like shots make up a film. Many directors who shoot coverage, or lazily direct actors, are often doing it for the wrong reasons or are simply inexperienced.

You aren't that director. I know you aren't.

If you're going to take only one thing from this list... take this: Your film is an art piece in a big museum of millions of films. Make it stand out. Make it beautiful.

Often times if you care about the content of your film, the audience will too.

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