How to Direct a Short Film
We are going to simplify one of the most important jobs on any film set: directing.
Directing is more than just yelling "action!" or "cut!" There are some small yet important aspects of being a director that are usually overlooked and this can spell disaster for your film set if you make this mistake.
As a director, it is your duty to arrive first on set. But what if you aren't an early riser and value sleep over sets? Well then you better get to chaos, my friend. If your gaffing and electric department wants to arrange a pre light session, you are going to have to set them up in a timely manner. Pre lights usually take a few hours so it is best if you arrive before your and G&E team does to organize your thoughts on lighting. You need to compose yourself as well. A director cannot be a successful one if they are not in the right mindset. What I usually do is arrive on set two hours early and get out a notebook full of my notes regarding my film and sit in a quiet room, preparing myself for the busy day ahead of me. A good director needs to set the pace for the rest of the crew. If your crew members see the director on set first and employing a productive work ethic, this will spread to your team and thus in turn a productive film set will be born. Punctuality is key.
A good director is constantly making sure that everyone in there is doing okay, that general morale is high. If one person in your crew has a negative attitude, it is sure to spread like a wildfire throughout your entire set and productivity will decrease exponentially. What I do as I direct is every thirty or forty five minutes I make my "rounds". I walk around set, pulling everyone aside and speaking to them personally and ask them how they're doing. If I can tell that someone is upset by their response, I usually dive deeper by asking "Is that what is really on your mind?" and I see where that gets me. Even something as small as offering someone a glass of water will brighten their mood and increase productivity. If members in your crew are having a disagreement and it is affecting your progress, tell the crew to take five and pull the quarreling crew members aside and have them talk it out. The three of you should think like adults and come to a solution. If the situation deems it appropriate, send them home. A film set does not need to be hindered by people arguing. These are just a few things to keep your crew happy. I like to keep my sets drama free. Encourage joke telling, playfully laugh when someone makes a mistake, make everyone eat lunch together to break the ice. If you know that your crew would love it, you should do it.
A good director knows exactly what they want from their actors. Perhaps the worst thing you can do is just say "Give me more." to your actors. More what? What I do whenever I am making a short film, I meet with my talent weeks before we plan to shoot. I give them a backstory of their characters and break down the script to its core. I let them know how I want certain lines to be read and why their character behaves the way they do. This way when our shooting day rolls around, my talent will already know what I want and what is expected of them and they will preform amazingly well. A bad director assumes that their talent knows what to do. It is all about communication.
Here is a video example of what a set with high morale looks and functions like. Notice how everyone is happy, laughing, hugging, and just having a good time overall. This is due to the fact that I employed the very tactics that I wrote about in this article and made sure everyone was happy and the set was operating at peak efficiency. With the knowledge you obtained from this article, you should be ready to direct your very own film!