Is it me... or is time the Director's greatest enemy?

Once upon a time in DUMBO

“Good morning, this is your wake up call.”

4.00am?! Like all crew, I’m used to early starts, but 4am, must be a mistake. I head for reception. “Good morning Sir, how may I help you?” “My wake up call, it’s 8am, not 4am.” “Oh I’m sorry”, we'll fix that right away” but before I can say, “how?”, Mr Enthusiastic announces, “You're all set. That’s 8am for room 803, you have a great day!”  

Welcome to New York, the City that never sleeps!

No matter how tired, how busy, or how jaded you may be the Big Apple is always exciting. Not to mention being with the home team @ Annex Films shooting for Shots brand of the year Samsung, and a new friendship with the very nice people at JAM.

Wandering the streets at 4am I remember just how great this City is. I mean hell, they even have there own timescale – The New York minute. It's a time frame known only to New Yorkers. Or as Johnny Carson once said, it's the interval between a Manhattan traffic light turning green and the guy behind you honking his horn. Actually It appears to have originated in Texas around 1967 and is a reference to the frenzied and hectic pace of New Yorkers' lives.

And believe me, when the production scehdule arrived, as Maverick once said, “I felt the need, the need for speed” - 7 films in 6 days, by anyone's standards, that’s going some. Makes you realise that, like New York, the film business has it’s own clock. It’s like someone put a secret flux capacitor into the Alexa - once you hit turnover, film speed kicks in and time speeds up. Pause and you're behind. Stop to think, and you're behind. Look at your storyboard and the 1st assistant director is shouting "that's lunch everyone!" So what can a director do to keep ahead? Here’s my 5 top tips:

 

RULE NO 1:  Accept everything resist nothing.

Doubt, anxiety and prevarication will slow you down faster than a meatball sandwich. Forward movement is the only way. The trick is to remain positive but stay relaxed, which is why the directors chair was invented: the soft fabric evokes a state of calm allowing you to observe without anxiety – see point 5

 

RULE NO 2:  Choose your crew wisely.

Luckily Hans + Becky had recently introduced me to the wonderful Dan Holland who’d just shot some gorgeous work with the same team Luke, Drew and Christian for Samsung. Dan is one of those DOP’s who’s mastered the kit. Fast and flexible he shoots great looking images in a user freindly way, proving that it's all about...

 

RULE 3:  Low fi hi fi

As you know from previous blogs I’ve always championed new technology but sometimes digital still travels with a truck load of crew. Kit like the easy rig proves a DOP can be free to move fast and still produce results. 

 

RULE NO 4: Ignore your crew and love your actors.

You may love your crew but always remember, the people in front of the camera can kill your schedule. Remember that great Jack Rosenthal film “Ready When you Are Mr McGill”? A forerunner to Extras it’s the story of one little man who kills the whole shoot. Now I’m not saying for one moment that my cast were anything other than professional but our script was full of technical jargon, rhyming algorithms and phases to tongue tie Brian Cox – the greatest joy was looking over my shoulder to see Hans nodding because an actor was word perfect.

 

RULE 5: Forget the chair and lead from the front.

I long for the chair. There’s nothing I’d love more than to sit facing a monitor and study my scene, but sadly contemporary commercials don’t run that way. My style is more… best foot forward, lead from the front, and go, go GO! In short – S.H.E.Z.A.M.  Smile, don’t Hesitate, Encourage And Move (The Z is just a reference to my name, and the fact that I like saying Shezam when things go well)

 

And so, with a lot of help from my friends we avoided the Delorean time bomb, finished ahead of schedule and produced some great looking films. In fact numbers for the  #SMARTMOVE series have topped a million views. Well worth getting up at 4am.