Posts Tagged ‘Film Directing’

The moment came at 64 minutes and 11 seconds into episode #300 of Scriptnotes when Chris McQuarrie explained the differences between screenwriting and film directing in just 18 words:

“Screenwriting is pushing a rock up a hill, and directing is running downhill with a rock behind you.”
Writer/ director Chris McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Mission Impossible-Rogue Nation)

That’s a great soundbite, and serves as a climax to that episode—perhaps to all 300 programs on the Scriptnotes podcast. Heck, it’s visceral enough to describe the entire 100+ years of cinema.




Indiana Jones=Directing

I don’t know if there will be another 300 episodes of Scriptnotes where screenwriters and hosts John August and Craig Mazin talk “about screenwriting and things interesting to screenwriters” but it’s been quite a run. Congrats to all involved in making that happen.

Scriptnotes debuted in August of 2011 and was the first podcast I listened to on a regular basis. Fast forward six years and I now listen to podcasts more than I do watching Tv or even movies. (Tomorrow I’ll even start a run of posts on how Alex Blumberg transitioned from NPR/Planet Money to raising $1.5 million to launch the podcast company Gimlet Media. And will look at how it represents a new era for content creators including dramatic writers.)

Here are 10 posts of mine over the years based on quotes pulled from Scriptnotes:

Scriptnotes’ 100th Podcast

Is It a Movie?

How to Get an Agent (Quote from UTA agent Peter Dodd)

I was never good or smart enough to get industry work before I made my first movie—Star Wars: The Last Jedi writer/director

I never saw myself as a sitcom person, but I was waiting tables…—Hit Sitcom Writer

From Houston to Hollywood (Mazin’s interview with John Lee Hancock)

Kramer vs. Kramer vs. Modern Hollywood (quote from Billy Ray)

Film vs. TV Writing (10 Difference)

What’s Changed? (Tip #102)

What’s at Stake? (David Wain)

P.S. The one show I’d like to see Scriptnotes produce is one where they expand on episode 235 showing how the original Game of Thrones pilot was shot and scrapped because it didn’t work. Love to see them explore how the script was reworked and reshot on its way to becoming a hit TV program. (It would be a bonus if Scriptnotes wanted to move into doc filmmaking and make a Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypselike documentary on that topic.)

Scott W. Smith 

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Here’s an extended quote from TV and feature film director Garry Marshall (The Odd Couple, Pretty Women) on working with actors taken from his book Wake Me When It’s Funny, written with his daughter Lori Marshall. And perviously used in the 2012 post Garry Marshall’s Directing Tips (Part 3):

“The truth is that there are a few stars who are just one taco short of a combo platter. The director’s job is to deal with it all…On the first day of a shoot, I always let my lead actors know that they’re the only ones on the set who are allowed to whine. Their performance can make or break the film, so if they want to whine every once in a while they can. Stars can be babies and learning to pacify then is part of the job and I don’t have a problem with that. However, I believe that every star has the ability to behave like an adult for at least an hour a day. So on the first day I take my stars aside and say, ‘I’m going to treat you like a temperamental artist. But there will be a time, say when we’re behind schedule or the sun is going down, when I will ask you to be an adult.’ This reasoning has worked with every actor I’ve ever directed from big stars to up-and-coming stars to never-going-to-be stars. When it really counted, they were adults and helped me solve a problem.”
Garry Marshall

P.S. And “dealing with it all” is good advice on smaller projects as well. A few years ago I was directing a video project for a national client using a well-known celebrity as talent. We had him booked for four hours for a short promo, but first thing he told me when we met on the set was,”I’ll tell you one thing, we’re not going to be here four hours.” I didn’t make it an issue and we were done in two hours. Embrace your limitations. There are many accounts of feature directors being challenged by stars on the first day of shooting as a sort of test of wills. And sometimes the results are difficult to handle. The extreme being the case on the shooting of First Blood, where the original actor playing in a key part walked because of a disagreement after the first day of shooting. Richard Crenna stepped in to fill the role.

Scott W. Smith

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Here’s more thoughts about directing from Garry Marshall taken from his book, Wake Me When It’s Funny:

“Michael Eisner once said, ‘Garry Marshall doesn’t direct a movie. He hosts a movie.’ That’s pretty accurate. Just as on my television shows, I run a loose ship. I want everyone to get along while they’re working because I hate tension while I’m working. I don’t care if two people kill each other at the wrap party as long as they can get along during the shoot. Movie sets are extremely intense and it’s critical that petty squabbles are kept to a minimum. One way to do this is to make sure each person feel as if he’s one of the most important players on the team. I let anyone make a suggestion on a film, from the smallest star to the biggest Teamster, because everyone is part of the process. I have no use for people who play it safe and refuse to give suggestions. On my set everybody can speak if he waits his turn.”
Garry Marshall

“I once worked with a cinematographer who told me that I didn’t command enough authority to be a film director. One day he brought me a ladder and asked me to stand on top of it. He wanted me to yell at the actors and scream at the crew. Stand tall on this perch, he said. This is the way you should control the set. I climbed up the ladder, yelled, and almost fell off. It just wasn’t my style. I wanted to control the whole set while sitting in the corner, with my eyes closed, sucking on a toothpick (a habit I adopted after I quit smoking). You have to find a way to work that suits you.”
Garry Marshall

“A director has to be part psychiatrist, part teacher, and part parent to everyone on the set. Part lover is not such a good idea because it represents a loss of control on the set. Many people entering show business find the responsibilities of being a director overwhelming and they go on to other jobs. There are many talented people who have directed one picture—some very good pictures—and have never been heard from again.”
Garry Marshall

Related posts:

Garry Marshall’s Directing Tips (Part 1)

Directing Tips from Peter Bogdanovich

Directing Non-Professional Actors

Kazan on Directing (Part 1)  The first of eight posts

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