Lessons I learned while directing ads: Director's Note #1
The true responsibility of a director on a project reflects when stuff gets out of hand. The team looks to the director when the deadline is missed, the shoot is delayed, or the TIME IS WASTED. Why wouldn't they? Isn't the director captain of the ship?
I had the opportunity to direct three influencer ads last week for a pretty popular brand. The ads turned out great. Everyone loved it, especially the brand (Which is a rare scenario).
But I could not stop thinking, "I messed up as a director."
This is me documenting what I learned from the three ads I directed and how I decided to improve with each one.
1. Be sure of what you want.
As a Director, your role is to take decisions based on your vision for the project. The confidence while taking the decisions reflects on how sure you are about it. That confidence forms the trust of the crew in you as their leader. If that confidence is less, the trust is less, and if that happens the crew deflects from your vision. If every crew member starts to put in their vision the product will seem incoherent. As they say, "Too many cooks spoil the soup".
Please note, As a director, it's important to welcome the opinions of the crew members but it's your responsibility to have the confidence to accept and reject the ideas if they do or don't follow the vision. This helps you make your vision concrete and helps the crew understand what kind of ideas are needed.
2. Relationship with the crew and talent
This might be a thing with me in particular, as I was more used to working alone until I started working at MonkE. Directing projects has a lot to do with leading a team from point A(pre-production) to B(post-production).
In this journey, there will be many ideas tossed around, some will get in, and some will get rejected. It's important to have an open conversation with the crew in any of the cases. It should be easy for your crew to approach you. Especially when the crew is filled with young people trying to get better at what they do as you are.
The actor might ask to do one more take their way, and the DOP might present a whole new camera movement. In any case, listening to them and making sure they realize that their ideas are received well is the top priority. Also, Have fun with the crew when the time allows it. It helps them get comfortable which leads to more creativity and honestly, a fun experience.
The changes I made
The first lesson was realized after the first ad was shot. Due to my lack of confidence in my decisions, the crew members started to bring in ideas and discussions started to happen on set. Which is a good thing, but it wasted a lot of time. This could have been better if I had a concrete vision and explained it to the crew well. So for the next two ads, I shot listed every shot I needed in the ad, had a conversation with the crew about it a day before, and made sure they understand the direction I am heading. This led to a fairly smoother second shoot which we finished in the scheduled time.
The second shoot showed me a different problem. Since it was a smaller-scale shoot, it was easy for the whole crew to talk to the actor and give in their opinions to them. This is again not a bad thing, but that confused the actor as he was now getting direction from 3 different people. So after the shoot was done, I had a conversation with the DOP and talked about how I felt about this and how it shows that the team is not efficient. The DOP agreed and for the third shoot he shared his ideas with me and if they were working for the vision I let the actor know. It created a system and then even the actor knew who to approach if they had a problem.
These 3 ads were great learning experiences. I am sure there is a lot more to come my way. I am excited about it!
It's important to be a director and not a dictator.
I hope this was insightful in some way. There are many lessons that you only learn when you are in the field. I want to document them and share them with you guys so you can observe similar stuff happening and react to it better.
See y'all next week!