Who chooses the director for a film

Filmmaking

How the director leads his team

Filmmaking is teamwork! No filmmaker is more important than another, but the large number of those involved requires a person who shows the artistic path and does not lose sight of the overall work: the director.

Director Christian Ditter with "Wicki" (Jonas Hämmerle) during the shooting of the film "Wickie auf große Fahrt". (& copy 2010 Constantin Film Verleih GmbH)

1. Introduction: The desire to make films

Anyone who stays in the cinema for a moment after the end of a film and follows the minute-long credits knows: Filmmaking is teamwork! No filmmaker is more important than another, but the large number of those involved requires a person who shows the artistic path and does not lose sight of the overall work: the director.

Working on the film set is only a fraction of his job. The director bundles the various creative forces of a film production: he selects the actors together with the casting director, stages them according to the script, coordinates the cameramen, integrates the staff for production design and costume, for make-up, sound and music and works during the Post-production together with the editor on the assembly of the film. His everyday life consists of constantly walking the tightrope of conveying his own visions and at the same time allowing and selecting the ideas of the creative employees.

A director needs to be able to make decisions and make the right compromises at all times. From the preparation of a film to the finished canvas, he is the decisive creative force. It was not for nothing that he was formerly referred to as senior director. In contrast to the USA, where directors have been relatively strictly bound to the specifications of the producer since the decline of the studio system in the 1950s, outside of the New Hollywood cinema and outside the independent sector, European filmmakers definitely want their own directorial style. It connects the learned craft more strongly with a personal artistry and shapes films much more individually.

2. Knowledge: Between the shooting schedule, storyboard and improvisation

2.1 Flowing boundaries: feature and documentary film directing

Whether fictional or documentary film - the directorial profession is at least as strongly interwoven with everyday life as it is with fictional events. Hardly anything is as exciting as reality: Motifs and topics that you stumble upon in newspapers or with friends can unexpectedly develop into a film.
Please click to open the PDF. (& copy BPB)
At first glance, documentaries and feature films seem to be clearly differentiated from one another, but the dividing line is actually blurred: Documentaries are not an objective representation of reality either, but the selection of images intervenes dramatically in the documented events. Conversely, many feature films, despite their fictional plot, are very closely oriented towards reality. There are documentary film directors who use the means of staging, but also feature film directors who work with documentary methods.

2.2 What does a director do?

Although both the working methods and the aesthetic ideas of directors differ considerably, every successful direction is based on an intensive collaboration with the producer and the creative professionals.

Artistic responsibility
With the support of the creative trades, but ultimately alone
While the producer is primarily responsible for the organizational and financial areas of a film production, the director bears the artistic responsibility. Working together, both choose the film staff and accompany the process of making the film.

Script reading
Together with the scriptwriter
In order to be able to develop a film material dramatically, the director should get involved with the script and track down its emotional idea. Ideally, your own cinematic vision emerges while reading.

Scenic resolution
At the selected locations in cooperation with the cameraman and the recording manager
Before the film team comes to the set, the director must already have an idea of ​​how he wants to implement the film material. A 'storyboard' is therefore ideal for planning and detailed resolution. Like an architect building a model of his planned house, this graphic version of the script serves to provide a better visual impression and as a clear communication basis during the shooting. This kind of visualization is often helpful, especially for complex and complex scenes, stunts or special effects. At the same time, the so-called 'shot list' has proven its worth, although it is not illustrated graphically, but clearly records scene numbers, settings, camera movements, etc. in a table.

Choice of ideas
From all trades and people involved in the film, based on the director's excerpt
Since the director is authorized to issue instructions and sets artistic priorities alone, he must have insight into the work of all the trades involved in film production. Casting directors, costume, scene and make-up artists, sound designers and film composers produce their own creative designs after precise arrangements with him, but they have to be based on his wishes and have them approved by him.

Realistic choices
In all planning and artistic details
The creative decisions must always be made against the background of the framework conditions created by the producer. Not every good location or every costume idea can be implemented, financed or harmonized with the overall artistic concept within the timeframe of the shooting schedule.

Proximity to the camera team
Especially during the dissolution and on the set
The work areas of the cameraman and director overlap particularly strongly. Mutual trust and a common artistic language are therefore essential - it is not without reason that many directors work permanently with certain cameramen.

Guide the actors
In rehearsals and on the set
Since the effect of a film depends on whether the actors succeed in bringing the characters to life, acting management is one of the director's primary tasks. In rehearsals he has to carefully introduce the actors to their roles until they correspond to the inner logic of the film.

Day samples and assembly
Together with the cutter, after consultation with production
Parallel to the shoot, the director looks at the daily patterns and decides with the producer whether re-shoots are necessary. In post-production, the filmed material is then given tension, rhythm and film flow. The director is close to the cutter's side in the various phases from the rough cut to the 'final cut', selecting the best 'takes', working with him on the final version of the film and, if necessary, arranging test screenings.

2.3 Indispensable participation - assistant director and 'Script / Continuity'

Without the help of close employees, the wide range of tasks of a director would hardly be manageable. The director's assistant is therefore at his side as the most important personal support, whose area of ​​responsibility includes creative and dramaturgical, but above all many organizational activities. Together with the director, he works out the script and discusses the artistic implementation, which he records in writing in excerpts from the director. If necessary, he does the research and stops each scene early in order to be able to estimate the shooting effort and the length of the film.

In consultation with the employees involved in production, the assistant director creates the shooting schedule and coordinates all work processes for the upcoming shooting in close cooperation with the production manager and production. On the set, he is largely responsible for the daily disposition. His job is to be available to the film staff as a central point of contact and to support the director in all matters relating to shooting.

Since films are seldom shot chronologically and almost every shot is shot several times, connection errors occur again and again. The so-called 'Script / Continuity' must therefore keep an overview of all artistic and technical decisions made, scene and text connections as well as the details of the sequence of scenes. In lighting design, set design, costumes, masks and hairstyles, the transitions are generally monitored by the respective departments, but the 'Script / Continuity' tries to keep an eye on all creative specifications at the same time. It also notes changes in the script, creates the daily production report and checks the consumption of the required film material.

2.4 Steering and motivating - communication on the set

A positive working atmosphere at the location essentially depends on the sovereignty of the director. For the success of a film, effective and respectful communication with the actors is essential. In addition to more or less fixed commands on the set, the director should consider a few basic rules so that a profitable collaboration can develop with the film team. For this he has to ...
    ... understand and reward the creative work of actors and staff.

    ... recognize when an actor needs help and in which scenes his inspiration can develop freely.

    ... convey your own ideas of how a scene should be implemented with sensitivity and comprehensibly.

    ... give direct, no-frills stage directions as possible.

    ... be sensitized to sources of conflict and actively counter crises at an early stage.

    ... to be able to stimulate an actor in such a way that he grows beyond himself and thereby approach him without fear of contact, but always with the necessary respect.

    ... himself and his team, especially during the film rehearsals, persistently and calmly approach the desired performance. As long as the basic idea is not lost, every deviation from your own vision does not have to be a disadvantage.

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Possible command sequences for starting the shooting of a scene

  • Unit manager: "Quiet please!"
  • Assistant director: "Ton off!"
  • Sound engineer: "Works."
  • Assistant director: "Camera off!"
  • Cameraman: "Running."
  • Assistant director: "2-4, flap, the first ..."
  • Director: "Please!"
  • Director (at the end of the scene): "Thank you!"

3. Teaching materials

4. Further reading and web links

vierundzwanzig.de: Interview with the documentary film director Andres Veiel

http://www.vierundzwanzig.de/regie_spielfilm (link to the trade on 24 with interview clips, film excerpts and background information)

http://www.vierundzwanzig.de/glossar (From A as in end credits to Z as in subtitles - explanations of all technical terms in the dossier)

http://www.up-and-coming.de (biennial film festival in Hanover with two film competition categories in the student-relevant age group)

http://www.movie-college.de/filmschule/regie/index.htm (Well-prepared basic knowledge about the subject of directing plus link collection and interviews)

Ottersbach, Béatrice / Schadt, Thomas (Hrsg.): Director's knowledge, UVK Verlagsgesellschaft, Konstanz 2006. (Texts by German directors on their path to work and the reality of filmmaking)