Monday, August 31, 2015

A key to directing

Just finished directing another episode of INSTANT MOM that was written by that sparkling young writing team of Annie Levine & Jonathan Emerson. I’d like to thank them for writing in stunts and a dog. But it was a terrific script and INSTANT MOM has a fabulous cast headed by Tia Mowry-Hardrict, Michael Boatman, and Sheryl Lee Ralph.

Beginning on September 19th it returns to TV LAND with all new episodes from 8-9 PM every Saturday.

Every TV director has a different approach. And every director has different strengths and weaknesses depending upon their background. An actor-turned-director can communicate more easily with actors than an editor-turned-director, but the former editor is probably more way more proficient with the cameras and technical side of the job.

I bring a writing background. As director emeritus Jim Burrows says, “if the script is good you can just point one camera at the stage and the show will work.” I’ve been directing now over twenty years and my skills have improved in both the technical and creative side.  I was able to tell the dog what his motivation was.   All of those aspects are essential, but there’s one other that I think is both key and rarely addressed in college directing classes or how-to books.

And that is this:

A director must set the tone of the stage.

There are a lot of people working on the production of a show. How does a director get the best work out of all of them? Here again, different approaches come into play.

Some directors are demanding, feeling that people perform best if they’re pushed. Others are very hands-on and feel they must control everything.

I think people do their best work when they’re in a comfortable supportive environment. There’s a lot of pressure on a set. You have to shoot difficult scenes with the clock always ticking. Many things are out of your control (how many takes will the dog need to hit his mark -- even if he knows his motivation?). If the director can create a calming tone I believe that’s a real plus. Relieving tension is as important a skill as knowing classic comic tropes, various acting techniques, and what lens goes with what shot.

Directing is a management job. It requires organizational skills, motivation skills, and leadership ability. For my money, a happy cast and crew will result in a better product. I mean, you’re making a TV show. How cool is that? Shouldn’t you WANT to go to work?

That's a wrap.

Thanks to Andrea Wachner, Kevin Corcoran, and Jake O'Flaherty for the cool photos.

9 comments:

Dodgerdog said...

It looks like a happy set! Congrats!

Peter said...

The Levine/Isaacs classic Room Service was shown on UK TV today. An absolute gem of an episode. The reactions of the room service waiter were priceless.

And wow, Bebe Neuwirth was smokin' hot in that dress!

villagedianne said...

"I think people do their best work when they’re in a comfortable supportive environment."

IMO that is true of other work places as well. Having a supportive environment is so important on so many levels. Even the lowliest job can require some degree of creativity, which a supportive environment fosters.

A friend of mine left the paralegal field many years ago. Among other things, she was tired of working in an environment where everybody was miserable. She took a lower paying job, but in a more congenial workplace.

powers said...

I have read about different film directors over the years & they do seem to have some very different approaches.
John Ford played mind games with his casts & crews.He could also be an intimidating bully.
Clint Eastwood runs a relaxed set,gets his scene done in only a few takes.
Stanley Kubrick was a cold fish who demanded a zillion takes for every single shot.
Ron Howard is well liked by his actors & crew.
James Cameron is well disliked by his.

Gen said...

My favorite "director" story, and I have no idea whether or not it's true, concerns Alfred Hitchcock, who was asked about a remark he allegedly made, to the effect that "actors are cattle." Hitch, the story goes, patiently explained that he did not that actors were cattle. What he actually said was that actors should be treated like cattle.

James said...

Have you ever written a script that you would have hated to direct?

DrBOP said...

Absolutely stoopid question, but do you always wear a suit on the day of a shoot?

'Ya look a bit s c a r y....like it's a Vince Lombardi deal....I'm thinkin' you had Charlie Sheen come in and give a "Winning" pep-talk....followed by an actor's prayer huddle....had 'em all drop down and give you 20 push-ups.....even your daughter's smile looks a bit forced....am anticipating a tell-all memoir from her,"Deep Ken"....ESPECIALLY the details about you wanting to accompany them on their honeymoon.....

Uhh, right, sorry.....about the suit?

Greg said...

Hi Ken,

Great pictures (is that a used car lot?)

Friday Question... When shooting a multi-cam show, how often would you go on location? The used car lot set looks small. Would you ever go outside (to a park for example) or just build it all on stage or create stories that can be shot easily on stage?

VP81955 said...

My favorite "director" story, and I have no idea whether or not it's true, concerns Alfred Hitchcock, who was asked about a remark he allegedly made, to the effect that "actors are cattle." Hitch, the story goes, patiently explained that he did not that actors were cattle. What he actually said was that actors should be treated like cattle.

More on that quote -- including a pic of Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery hugging cattle Carole brought to the set of Hitch's 1941 comedy "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" -- can be found at http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/805299.html.