After producing over a dozen films, I decided it was time to add film directing to my list of experiences. This decision resulted from the timing and unfolding of certain events. I had previously interviewed two different directors for the job, but they weren’t a fit. The first director had some ideas that didn’t mesh with the story. The second director said that she didn’t feel comfortable directing a dance film. And that got me thinking…
I used to teach ballroom dancing. And with a twenty-year track record of producing and acting in films and working with many directors, I realized I had an inspiring vision for this film. I realized I could see every scene in my mind and how everything would cut together. Once I saw the film, I had to bring it to life. Here are six lessons I learned directing my first feature film.
Lesson 1 – Have a Vision For Your Film
You can’t direct unless you have a detailed vision for your film. You need to be the captain of the ship. You have to have a vision for your film and get everyone to help realize that vision. If you do not have a vision, you’re going to end up spinning your wheels and creating a mediocre movie at best.
Lesson 2 – Prepare for Everything
I cannot stress this enough. Prepare for everything. Prep every day. And then prepare until the moment you’re about to roll the camera, and then prep some more. The more you can put into preparation, the better off you’ll be. At the very least, you will want to have a shot list, storyboards, location scouts, rehearsals with actors, pre-blocking, and anything you can do to make the shoot go smooth.
Lesson 3 – Think Like An Editor
Through the years, I’ve noticed a lot of new film directors overshoot everything. As a result, 90% of the footage ends up cut from the film. I know some directors believe, “it’s better to over-shoot than under-shoot,” which is true to a point. But if you think like an editor, it makes the entire production efficient. And efficiency is something that will make the crew, the actors, and the editor much happier and ready to work.
Lesson 4 – Hire a Great DP
As a director, you don’t plan your shots alone. This is because a great DP (Director of Photography) will share your vision and devote their energy to finding the perfect shot. If you take time to find a great DP, you will increase the likelihood that the footage will look great. And this frees up time to focus on actor performances and the overall tone of the movie.
Lesson 5 – Hire a Great First AD
A great First Assistant Director will move things along and keep the film going. With this in mind, you want to make sure your 1st AD is a calming presence. I’ve seen 1st ADs stress out the director because they are stressing out themselves, which is never good for anyone. The best 1st ADs keep everything moving forward… And in the process, they make the job look easy.
Lesson 6 – Hire Great Actors
When directing a film, time is money. And every time you have to redo a take, you’re adding more time. If you have great actors, you never have to worry about performances. Any other takes will usually be for different camera angles or just slight changes you want to the scene. So great actors also help streamline everything and make the film more efficient! And if you’re ready to produce and direct, check out my film funding guide.