Lights, Camera, Action!

So last night finished up a directing class that I’ve been taking at a local community college.  We got together and had a screening where we got to watch our work and, afterward, a guest speaker, who is a local production coordinator, talked about budgeting.

During the course of the class each of us had to choose a scene from a script, break it down, create a shot list, and storyboard it.  Let me tell you, I couldn’t draw if my life depended upon it, so it was stick figures for me!  We learned about casting calls, but I missed the day they talked about acting and working with actors. 

Then each of us got to play director and shoot our chosen scenes.  We were running short on time so I opted out of directing my scene.  I don’t have any plans to be a director, but my classmates do so I figured they would need the experience more than me.

But, low and behold, we were short on actors, so guess who got recruited into the job?  Now, the only thing I’ve ever done in front of an audience is public speaking and dancing.  Acting was a totally new experience for me.  But it was interesting to get a small taste of what an actor does:  memorizing lines, repeating the same lines and actions over and over again for each take, taking direction from the director, keeping my movements smaller for closeups.  Actually, when I think about it, there are some similarities to public speaking and dancing.  So would I ever want to be an actor?  Heck, no.  Even though I got compliments on my acting, it was downright painful watching myself at that screening last night.  Nope, no acting for me.  I’ll do the world a favor and remain behind the scenes.

Getting past the pain of watching myself, it was a good learning experience to watch the scenes that we shot.  The teacher pointed out mistakes that are typical for a beginner director.  A few that I can remember off the top of my head are: 

  • In one shot the framing was off and there was too much air space above the actors’ heads.
  • Another time, the actors weren’t blocked properly and it looked like the actress was on the head of one of the actors.  Also, there was no continuity and sometimes the actress was in the shot and sometimes she wasn’t.  It not only looked strange, but the whole reason for the shot lost its meaning without her.
  • The funniest was seeing the fuzzy fur-covered microphone at the top of the shot and one of the lights over to the side.  Oops…another framing mistake.

So maybe by now you’re wondering why I took a directing class even though I have no plans to be a director.  Well, producers have been described as generalists.  They need to know a little about each job, but they don’t have to be experts in those jobs.  But they need to know enough to be able to hire the right people and budget for those jobs. 

So far I’ve taken classes in scriptwriting, lighting and cinematography, directing, film production, and early film history, among others.  Since I’m new to this, I’ve got the double job of keeping the project moving forward while I keep my education moving forward.  I’m always in the middle of reading of a book or two and when one class finishes, I start looking for my next class.  Fortunately for me, I love learning, and this is a job where the learning never stops.