In my opinion, all roles on a set, whether TV or film, are as equally important and critical to getting the final shot. That being said, I want to talk about one of the most difficult jobs on set: the director.
In a TV production, in the field or studio, the director has many things going on at once and a lot of calls and cues to hit as the event is being switched live with multiple cameras. When I’m opening a show, my rundown from the top usually sounds a bit like this. Cameras to opening position, talent to opening positions, cue up music, cue up cg, cue up lights, cut up roll in, stand by with talent mics, stand by to roll tape, roll tape, (here, I will give a good 10 secs of black, stand by opening credits, which could be a cg or a roll in, take cg ( or roll in) fade up music ( or roll in sound if built in) preview camera 2, stand by to fade out roll in and music, stand by talent in 5, slow fade out of roll in and music, 3 fade up talent mics, any light effects if we have them, 2 cue talent, one, Mics should be live at this point. Take camera 2.
Ok. From here, I then direct my talent, cue up more CG, lower thirds or roll ins, music, and any other effects or lights cues we have planned for in pre-production. So, that is what a TV studio production can look like from a director’s stand-point. Of course, that is after you have helped decide what the set will look like, made sure the cameras are matching (if it is a small shoot), and you need to oversee everything.
I have directed over 25 live studio/field production shows in the last two years. That might not sound like a lot, but between film directing and my video production business, finding time to do a live-switch production is hard.
Film production is a different concept to directing. I still have to oversee all that goes on in the production, especially when I have a small crew of under 10. When I am fortunate enough to have a larger crew, I can delegate and trust more on my amazing crews to do their job to make the production run smoothly.
When I am on set, I usually have been through at the least two weeks of pre-production and at most 3-6 months of pre-production for the shoot I am directing. On set, the director is in charge of working with the talent, signing off on the look and camera moves, keeping things on time. On bigger shoots, an AD can do this, watching each take to make sure they are getting what they want, giving the talent direction if they are not getting what they want, knowing when to say “cut” and “print,” and being a professional. A bad director might not know what he or she wants and might not know how to talk to talent or get what they want from the talent or know what shots they want or what devices (camera techniques) they want to use to aid in telling the story. These people waste the time of the cinematographer, the talent, the crew and the funders if they have them.
A good director, in my opinion, knows a little about all aspects of filmmaking, a alot would be even better. I grew up an actor in NY doing print-ads, local theater, off-Broadway as a small child, stand in, extra work, commercial work, etc. I have studied cinematography for the last five years and taught filmmaking and TV production for the last four years. I have been almost every role in a film production, holding a boom, being a gaffer, a dolly pusher,puller, make-up (took a college course in it), sound mixer, producer, craft services, talent, editor, and director. Having a well-rounded view of what a set should run like and the crew to produce a good shoot are very important to a director.
Next time you wonder what the person behind the camera staring at a tv set yelling “ACTION” or “CUT” is doing, just remember what they went through to get to that spot and where they are going once the footage hits the can.
Thanks for reading,
Sean D Brown