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Posts Tagged ‘Being a director’

“I’ve never stopped trying to educate myself and to improve myself.”
Elia Kazan (1909-2003)
Oscar-winning director of On the Waterfront

In a day and age when almost everyone with a camera and an editing system calls themself a director I thought I’d give you what On the Waterfront director Elia Kazan told students at Wesleyan University  back in 1973 what he thought were the fields of knowledge that would best serve the role of a director. So while this is an abridged list, everything in bold is from Kazan’s speech as found in the book Kazan on Directing.

On What Makes a Director

Literature. All periods, all languages, all forms.
The craft of screen dramaturgy.
The film director knows beneath the surface of his screenplay there is a subtext. It’s what he directs.
Study Chaplin and other great two-reel comedy makers for what are called slight gags, nonverbal laughs.
The director should know opera. Acrobatics. Painting. Dance.
Music—All periods. And the social situations and currents the music came out of.
Collect clippings and photographs.
The film director must know costuming.
Lighting. Colors. Camera. Lens.
Weather.
The city. The mountains. The plains. The Delta. The sea.
Topography.
How to stimulate, even inspire the actor.
The film director must be up on the psychology of behavior.
Knowledge and training to handle neurotics. Why? Because most actors are. Perhaps all.
Various attitudes of lovemaking.
Economics a bore? Not to us.
He will not duck jury duty. (I wrote a post on that a while back.)
The best-directed shows on TV today are professional football games. Study them.
The subject the film director must know about most—Himself.

You don’t need to go to film school to be a director, but you need to be educated. Kazan followed this list with the qualities a director needed to go along with that knowledge.

A hunter leading a safari into dangerous and unknown country.
A construction gang foreman.
A psychoanalyst.
A hypnotist.
A poet.
An outfielder for his legs.
The cunning of a trader in a Baghdad bazaar.
The firmness of an animal trainer. Obvious. Tigers!
The kindness of an old-fashioned mother who forgives all.
The elusiveness of a jewel thief.
The blarney of a PR man.
A very thick skin.
A very sensitive soul.
The patience, the persistence, the fortitude of a saint.
Cheeriness, jokes, playfulness, alternating with sternness.
Direction.
Above all—COURAGE.
The director must accept blame for everything.

As school is getting ready to start around the country this might be a good list to hand out with all those technical guides and workbooks.

Scott W. Smith

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