Friday, May 25, 2007


No, not the Shirley Jackson short story - though I recommend you read it if you haven't already.

Okay, so last night was the second episode of Fox's ON THE LOT reality television program and there were several lessons to be learned from the mistakes of our contestants.

1. Learn to work with others.

There was one team last night that really drove their team vehicle into the swamp by fighting instead of working. it was reflected in how poor the one director's scene came out. She and the male director (and I'm sorry - I don't remember their names as they are all interchangable at this point in the contest) came up with a nasty scene because of their attitude toward one another. Did he sabotage her? I don't know for certain, but it leads to the next lesson...

2. Know what (and what you aren't) shooting and make sure you are covered.

The female director got booted because her scenes didn't work camera-wise. Whose fault is that? Hers. As a director and a producer you must know exactly what your DP is shooting at all times. Did the DP screw up? Yes, but they could have easily checked the footage while on location, cleared it, then moved on. On set, you the Director are responsible for what goes on. That's why you get the big chair.

3. You can't always "fix it in post."

The opening of the show had the team arguing over this and that and the consensus was the edit wasn't good (for a multitude of reasons or arguements).

4. Know your technology.

Because he knew what he could pull of with his software and experience, one of the trio of directors for TIME OUT was able to pull off something the others couldn't. They were able to go with their strengths and create a memorable short that had the celebrity judges asking, "How did you do that?" It goes back to the ARKOFF formula post from way back - revolutionary scenes get talked about.

(Oh, and FYI check out Film Flap for an expansion of the ARKOFF formula)

5. Know your film history.

One of the shorts (the one with the set up for a murder) had a scene which used long lenses to give it that documentary feel to it. It was strikingly similar to THE CONVERSATION and I fully expected Gene Hackman to step out of a van at the far end of the park. Ratner recognized the use of the long lens and damn if I didn't think he was going to mention CONVERSATION in his critique but he didn't.

Now why do I say "know your film history?" This will play out in the next episode where the contestants have to direct a scene with a crew. They have 30 minutes to prep and an hour to shoot. They don't have time because, as we all know, that means money. You have to get the crew on the same page quickly and simply.

You will see contestant-directors flounder as they try to describe a scene to their crew and actors when they could easily reference another film (or tv show, or painting or comic or whatever) and go from there more quickly and with fewer variables in play. Knowing what has come before gives you and your crew a starting point of tone to expand upon.

And again, this is especially important when time is a factor.

1 comment:

John said...

I worked with one director who thought films before Angelheart was crap and refused to watch them.
I've run into this shit many times and try and ignore the blanks stares when I mention a Wilder or Ford scene.