Directing films is not a finite goal, it’s a process and you never stop learning.
Originally I had put these tips in my other article 4 and a half lessons I learned the hard way but I split them into two because there seemed to be two kinds of tips: The bigger picture ones (in the other article) and the much shorter and quicker to implement in this post.
I hope they’re useful…
1 – The bigger the space the better
Let’s start with a quickie, um, I mean a quick one.
A good cinematographer will tell you this, but the more depth there is between your actors and the background the better the shots tend to look.
Whenever possible find the biggest space that makes sense and place actors, props and the background at different lengths. It’s very simple and it’ll make your movie look so much better.
Similarly, if something or something it’s moving, it looks more interesting when they’re moving away from the camera or at the camera as opposed to sideways.
2 – Shoot the characters entering or leaving the room whenever possible. Even if it’s not in the script.
This is not a hard rule by any means. But more than a few times I have come across a scene that started with the characters already in the room.
This is great, it gets you right into the action. The problem is, sometimes it just doesn’t work in real life as it did in your head.
Maybe the scene feels too abrupt or maybe you want to cut out the previous or following scene but now you need this one to be self-contained.
There’s several situations when shooting the characters entering and/or leaving the room tends to be helpful. I’m not saying that you should add 3 setups to your day, just have the actors walk in before their lines and walk out when they’re done. It only takes a few more seconds per take and it’ll make a huge difference for you and the editor later.
3 – Shoot for longer, edit for shorter
Probably by now you think I’m a very wasteful director, maybe I am. But there’s nothing worse than having nothing to cut with in the edit room, so I try to make my scenes a bit longer on the page.
Later, in the edit room it’s the opposite. I always try to make the scenes shorter. It sounds weird but I think it makes sense. Because I shot for a longer scene now I have more options to cut.
Of course a good editor is vital, but I always aim to find a balance where you cut it a scene as short as possible without losing its flavor.
I hope these tips help you make better movies. Don’t forget to have fun!