Ringmaster: Its all about YOU!

Ringmaster1The big moment is here. Time to roll. Get ready for an amazing experience. It's time to be a director on a film set. Giddyup.

The thing about being a director on a movie set, it's fun and all, but everything in that universe depends on you. No pressure. You are the leader of the film set, and the set will be a reflection of you. If you are prepared, confident, even­tempered and good-humored, your crew (and your movie) will be, too. If you are frazzled, grumpy, and disorganized ... You get it.

THE DIRECTOR ON THE SETRingmaster2

You have three primary jobs on the set: coordinating, communicating, and deci­sion-making. Coordination of the elements of camera, sound, and performance is one of your main responsibilities. You are the mix-master, making sure that all the many elements are in the proper blend. You must constantly be aware of how these pieces are coming together as a whole, making sure that all are working together in concert.

Communicating what you are looking for to the cast and crew is an essential part of your duties. As the director, you will talk as much or more than you will do. You will need to communicate with every single person on the set. In this communication you need to be clear and concise, without being bossy or demanding or condescending. In communication with actors, camera opera­tors, grips, or anyone else, you will need to get to the point, while always, always, always remaining respectful.

Decisions, decisions, decisions. Do you want the camera here or here? You want the book in or out of the frame? Do you have money for more sodas? Do you like these shoes? How tall should the flames be? Making decisions is your primary job. You will get offered options and asked questions, sometimes several at once. It's okay to be thoughtful, but on the set you are not going to have the time to linger over decisions. Follow your instincts. Going with your first thought is probably the way to go. Efficiency is more important than perfection.

Sometimes you are going to be asked so many questions that it will drive you a little nuts. Tough. Answering questions is your job so get over yourself, make a decision, be nice, and move on toward pulling off your movie.

It is essential that you remain calm and respectful throughout the shoot. This is particularly important as things get difficult. You must remain calm. If you let the temperature rise, people are going to walk. If the set gets unpleasant, your crew will evaporate. After all, what's keeping them there? If the environment is harsh and tension-filled, why stick around? The big payday? Yeah, right.

You the man, you got the power, it's your show - now be nice.

THE AP AND AD

Make sure the Associate Producer and Assistant Director know their responsibilities on the set.

Associate Producer
~ Takes roll at the beginning of each session. Makes sure everyone remembers their job, has a script in his pocket. Calls those that are missing.
~ Monitors slush pile of scripts.
~ Keeps an eye on the food table. Makes sure food and drinks are kept away from filming area - spills can wreck the tech. Help from PAs in this area.
~ Troubleshooting missing, broken production elements, problems of any kind.
~ Keeps the director on schedule - the woman with the watch. ~ Advance team to next location as set wraps.

The AP is the person that smoothes the road for the production, diffuses problems as they arise, keeps everyone fed and hydrated, and keeps everything moving along. The AP should be popular with everyone on the set, with the exception of the director. The AP should be a bug in the director's ear whenever time gets tight.

Assistant Director
~ Makes sure the crew knows exactly what the director wants. ~ Directs crew to the next setup or shot.
~ Keeps crew focused and on-task.
~ Assists crew in a pinch with whatever needs doing.
~ Available for advice to director on creative decisions.
~ Monitors script and shotboard to make sure coverage is complete.

The AD is the straw boss, the sergeant of the set - a nice sergeant. This person makes clear what the next move is for each and every crew member on the set. The voice that the crew will hear most often will be the AD's, not the director's. The AD should spend most of the production right at the director's shoulder, giving an opinion when asked, waiting to hear what has to happen, and making it work. The AD is also crossing off scenes and shots from the script, making sure that nothing is left out (a crucial duty).

Ringmaster3THE HUDDLE

Start each session, morning or afternoon, by pulling the cast and crew together and setting out your objectives for that session. This will get everyone focused and moving in the same direction. Remind everyone to turn their cell phones off.

Then it's time to roll; the camera and sound should be setting up, gaffers hanging lights where necessary, actors getting into costume, director watching the moni­tor and framing the shot. If you are on a location that has traffic, the AD should be strategically placing PAs with phones or walkie-talkies to hold people/cars back when the cameras are rolling.

Then comes the time when everyone is in place and ready. Time to get your first shot.

Republished with permission from Filmmaking For Teens, Published by Michael Wiese Productions, www.mwp.comAvailable now on their website.


TroyLanierTROY LANIER produces documentary films. His documentary, Streets Without Cars, played on PBS stations across the U.S, and he has produced a series on the Pottery of Mexico. As a climber, Lanier also travels with and documents international climbing and caving expeditions. A graduate of the Georgia Institute ofTechnology, Lanier holds an MA from the University of Wisconsin in the History of Science. He has served as the director of the Devil's Canyon Wilderness Program and on the board of proyecto Espeleologico Purificacion, an international organization dedicated to the exploration of Mexico's longest cave. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and children. ClayNichols

CLAY NICHOLS has written over a dozen plays for young and adult audiences that have been produced across the country. Titles include Appleseed John, The Speaker Speaks, and The Nose in Exile. His plays have received awards from the Center for American History at the University ofTexas, the Austin Critics' Table, Playwrights' Cen­ter of San Francisco, and Stages Theatre of Houston. Nichols is a graduate of Dartmouth College and holds an MFA from the University ofTexas where he was a James A. Michener Fellow at the Texas Center for Writers. During a twelve-year career in secondary schools, Nichols founded the Theatre Focus program at St. Stephen's School. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and three children.

Together, Nichols and Lanier are part of the founding team of Dad Labs, a ground­breaking online video network. There they have produced over 500 video episodes that have been viewed millions of times worldwide.

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