3 Film Directing Tips: How To Be Zen and Have a Good Time

3 Film Directing Tips: How To Be Zen and Have a Good Time by Scott McMahon

The sun is beginning is to set. The grips have pulled in the boom jib.

But there’s something wrong. . .

The wire cable is tangled.

The lead actress’s wardrobe is torn and the rip is showing on the side.

The wardrobe team is frantically trying to sew the rip.

Your D.P. is freaking out … you’re losing the light!

What do you do?

Film Directing

Here’s a film directing tip. Be Zen. It is your vision.  You are the captain of this ship. . .

You calmly bring everyone in and say:

“Don’t worry about the jib, no need to sew the dress. I only need a close up of her eyes as she looks out onto the horizon.”

Your crew reassures you that they can do it.

“No need. No sense in stressing out with everything. Just get me the close up shot and we’ll call it a wrap.”

That’s being a captain. That’s film directing.

Film Directing Tip 1: See The Big Picture

As a film directing tip, I want you to remember something – You are the director. And it is up to you to have a clear understanding of what the complete story is about before you enter the realms of production.

All the other heads of production will focus on their specialty.

They will give you the very best of themselves, but it is your responsibility to provide clear guidance on where you will be taking them. You will focus on film directing.

If you know deep down, that the essence of the story you are telling is about, let’s say, the transformation of a meek girl to a self-empowering woman.

Then you would know, that an elaborate boom jib shot in magic hour, might come off as melodramatic and a bit cheesy.

Whereas by using a simple close up of your actress’s eyes will deliver a much more personal connection for the audience.

This is film directing. . . 

Film Directing Tip 2: Become Like Water


You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.

~ Bruce Lee

I’m not gonna argue with Bruce, are you?

how to become a director courseBecoming like water is probably the best advice to give to anyone who wants to get into film directing. And as film director, as anything and everything will go wrong on the making of your film.

Being able to see the bigger picture, and being able to accept whatever story unfolds before you is crucial.

You really must “let go” and be formless as water in order to steer your film.

Film Directing Tip 3: Knowing is NOT Enough

One of the other famous quotes of Bruce Lee is, “Knowing is not enough, you must apply”.

During the early part of my career, before I got into film directing, I was the Cinematic Supervisor for Sony PlayStation.

We produced a lot of the cinematic animated and visual effects sequences for many of the first-party titles during the boom of PlayStation 1,2, and 3.

My specialty was in editing and visual effects compositing. I was last in line when it came time to make magic out of all the elements that came down the pipeline.

When things didn’t go as planned, I would have to help the production process by saying:

“That’s okay, just give me that element there and I’ll add a mask here.”

This process was essentially being like “water”, as I was directing the elements in order to help it through a funnel where I could get the shots and sequence completed.

Fast forward to a few years later and here I was making a very-teenie-tiny independent film called The Cube.

You can read more about that experience here.

Anyway, during the process of directing the feature film, I had to “let go” and become like water in so many facets, because resources were extremely limited.

Having a broad sense of the story, I knew whether or not I should freak out about a shot not quite working out, or be flexible to jump on an opportunity that arose when it presented itself.

Film directing can be very stressful, as you will have so many of your hopes and dreams locked into whether or not you can pull off making your days.

But if you can “let go” and be like water and accept the moment. . . Then you’ll be able to guide your team through the production without stress.

You will gain experience in film directing.  And you will survive another day to direct again and again.

Case in point … check out how Clint Eastwood controls his sets.


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Scott McMahon is the Director of Content Marketing for The Film Trooper, a website for helping filmmakers become entrepreneurs. Scott recently made the feature film The Cube that was made for $500 with no crew. For more info on the equipment Scott used to make this feature film with no crew, then all you have to do is head on over to www.FREEGEARGUIDE.com


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