There. I said it. I know this will ruffle a few feathers, but an Anon’s comment I answered to a couple entries down really had me thinking about the “craft” of directing.
I’ve AD’d 11 features and god knows how many short form projects. Many of those with the same directors. One thing is for certain throughout all of them:
Directing is a natural talent. You’re either good at it. Or you’re not. Being in between these things means you’re simply mediocre and that’ll definitely get you nowhere in this industry.
I know many directors who spend a lot of time filming little shorts and whatnot when they’re not out working whatever job they’re doing to pay the bills. Most of them will never go beyond what they’re doing now despite spending their time trying to hone their craft. Why? Because they simply don’t have “it”.
Any monkey can arrange blocking for a scene. And anyone can get an actor to deliver their lines without flubbing and make them feel like the best actors in the world. But it’s the natural talent of understanding subtlety that makes good directors. You can’t learn that. You’re either keen to those key moments and off beats or you’re not. No amount of crappy youtube movies will change that.
“It” is not a learned virtue. You need to be someone who’s naturally attuned to not just how the scene plays out, but why it plays out the way it does. And on top of that, you need to understand how to direct your department heads to also understand why scenes are the way they are.THAT’Swhat makes a good director. You’re subconsciously directing everyone through your words with the actors. The emotions you help them portray are not just visible through the acting, but are visible throughout the whole film itself: art, choreography/blocking, sound design, lighting, shot composition, etc.
The best directors I have worked with may not know what an 18K is, but they know how to talk to their DPs in ways that dictate lighting without actually dictating lighting. They know how to speak even when they’re not speaking. Their sentences are concise but speak volumes not just to actors, but to everyone around.
That’s a skill that cannot be learned. I will repeat that one hundred million times. I’ve watched meh directors direct 25+ projects and never understand how to communicate with their crew and cast simultaneously. I could teach them how much action can go into 1/8th of a page until my face turns blue, but it doesn’t mean they’ll get it. Hell, there are some who still never believe in cutting right into scenes and insist constantly on useless transitional shots that do nothing for the story… and these are folks who have made more films than years I have been alive.
The truth of the matter is that if you want to be a good director, you have to understand communication on a profound level. You’re like the mayor of a small city and you have to play those same political games to get what you want out of the project. And much like there are many politicians who have no business being politicians, there are many directors who have no business being directors, no matter how much time they spend “honing their craft”.