Directing Tips: 3 Ways to Prepare for a Shoot

What do you do when you’re staring down the barrel of a gun and you need to make a decision? What if there’s a room full of five, ten, or even 50 people looking at you, expecting you to make a decision? So there might not be any gun, but that’s the feeling I get when I’m on set directing a cast and crew.

It’s been said that the best director is someone who can show you the door and guide you through it. I still haven’t found this door that I keep hearing about, but damn it I try.

Now although this is true, I think the real fundamental part of being an at least adequate director is the ability to answer a million questions. A constant barrage of questions.

Where am I going with this? It’s simple. Preparation. How prepared are you? If you’re prepared you won’t have a problem making those tough calls. In fact, if you’re prepared there shouldn’t be tough calls — just decisions. Knowing the script, the camera, the lighting, the scene, the actors, the story, the story, the story and on and on. If you’re conducting an interview, know the interviewee, know where you want the story to go and then you can guide them through the door. Ok, I think I might’ve found that door they’re always talking about.

If you want to make your day, and stay on track, budget and scope, you need to be prepared to make decisions by being prepared.

So how do you get prepared?

Make lists. Before you even start pre-production, make a giant list of things you need to do or remember. By the time you’re done pre-production you can start a list for the shoot. I’ll go through the script and make a shot list. This gives me time to think it through without wasting the whole cast and crew’s time. This also allows me to get super focused on what needs to be done, and to start visualizing the shooting process.

Visualize. If it’s your first rodeo, it will be hard to imagine anything outside of your shot ideas, or the moments you’re wanting to pull. But if not, this visualization process will allow you to project the questions or decisions you will have to make — and often they will compromise your original vision. My advice is to adapt and move on.

Adapt. A day on set will never look exactly like you imagined. Be ready to roll with it, and know what elements you need to keep in order to preserve the creative vision. If you’re not willing to change something, you need to be confident in your decisions. This confidence will trickle down through your cast and crew and allow you to make your day.

Next time you’re standing there with ten pairs of eyes leveled at you, and you can feel yourself start looking for the door — the literal door — just remember: you prepared for this.

These directing tips were brought to you by the director himself, Adam. Learn more about him here.

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