A Movie Director Should Know This As Much As Anything Else by Mark W. Travis
Film Courage: Let’s go back to the word assumption and the filter that the director sees this story from. How much does a director have check their own world view?
Mark W. Travis: Their own worldview?
Film Courage: Yes. Or the filter that they see the world through which has years of good things, bad things, traumas, abandonment, happiness, praise? How much do they really have to know themselves to see ‘am I projecting this worldview (which may not be correct) onto every story?’
“I think the more you know who you are…the more you know about your assumptions, your prejudices, your view of life and the world because of your life experiences and how you see things through different filters, the more you know the better director you are going to be. The more able you may be to get out of the way. Your job is to get out of the way and not try to impose something on a story or on characters.”
Mark W. Travis: Okay. A couple things. First off how much do they know themselves?
Film Courage: Yes. And how important is this?
Mark W. Travis: First of all, really important to know themselves! Really important to know themselves and I’m sort of struggling a little bit with how much do they have to check themselves, but, let’s go back to know themselves. They really have to know themselves a lot. Know who they are…I think the more you know who you are…the more you know about your assumptions, your prejudices, your view of life and the world because of your life experiences and how you see things through different filters, the more you know what the better director you are going to be. The more able you may be to get out of the way. Your job is to get out of the way and not try to impose something on a story or on characters.
There is a process on The Travis Technique™ which I don’t know if you and I have talked about much at all called Write Your Life. It’s a very important part of the whole process which is storytelling. And storytelling, not so much writing, even though it’s called Write Your Life, but it’s autobiographical storytelling. Taking an event in your life and telling one event in your life. Maybe it only takes 3, 4, 5 minutes to tell this event. The question is, when you’re telling an event in your life, can you tell it honestly? If you’re telling something that happened to you (this is what I love about this workshop and this way of working) that event is already written. There is nothing to write, it happened. This happened, this happened, this happened, this is the event, that happened. Done! So there is nothing to create. What your challenge is, how do I tell this story? How do I tell this story openly and honestly. Second question is: Do you know yourself well enough? You are the protagonist of that event. How well do you know yourself? And how well are you willing to reveal yourself? In all your flaws and all your courage and all your trepidation, expectations. Whatever was going on in that event. Do you really understand it and can you reveal it in the story knowing that event, that little 3-minute event in your journey, in that 3-minute story is the only thing that the story is about. What happened around you, let’s say it was a birthday party you went to or something like that and some strange things happened. All those things that happened around you and impacted you, that is not the story. The story is how you felt, how you reacted, what you thought, what you were feeling, what you were desiring, what you were expecting. That is the story. And that’s the story of any character in a movie. So going through Write Your Life, can you even do that? How well do you even know yourself? And the better you know yourself and can see how you operate at any moment, the better you are going to be able to see other characters, the better you are going to be able to work with other actors. So this whole thing of knowing yourself is crucial. And this is why we teach Write Your Life to so many writers, directors, actors so that they can start from a point of self-awareness and self-revelation before going into writing the next script. Before taking that next role, before directing that next movie. If you know yourself. If you say “I now understand how I operate as a human being.” You will understand every character you work with much better. So that is crucial.
And then getting back to your question about imposing your own world view on it. You will be less likely to do that because you will be more likely to want to honor the view of the characters. And there is one other aspect of this and that is when you read a script and it impacts you…and I’m assuming that you have this script that you’ve read and you want to make it into a movie and you’ve been so moved by it and you say “I want to make this.” My first question to you the director would be “Great! Why do you want to make this? (And all that) But what do you want to say? What do you want to do?” Best answer to that is “I want to create this as a movie so that viewers will have the reaction I had to it.” Not “So I can push this message on them.” I was so moved by this, I was so moved by these characters. I was touched. I was brought to tears and laughter and I went on an emotional journey after I was reading this. I want to afford an audience (a viewer or an audience) the same experience, knowing that for each member of the audience, it will be different. It won’t be exactly the same as mine.
Question for the Viewers: How important is self-awareness for a movie director?
CONNECT WITH MARK W. TRAVIS
MARK W. TRAVIS is regarded by Hollywood and independent film professionals internationally as the world’s leading teacher and consultant on the art and craft of film directing. He is known as “the director’s director.”
Fueled by the desire to generate organic and authentic performances in an instant, Mark developed his revolutionary Travis Technique™ over a span of 40 years. Not limited to filmmakers, The Travis Technique™ has proven to be an essential set of tools for all storytellers, writers, directors and actors.
Mark Travis has taught at many internationally acclaimed film schools and institutions, including Pixar University, American Film Institute, UCLA Film School, FAS Screen Training Ireland, NISS — Nordisk Institutt for Scene og Studio (Norway), Odessa International Film Festival (Ukraine), CILECT — The International Association of Film and Television Schools, and the Asia Pacific Screen Lab (hosted by Griffith University Film School, Brisbane, Australia).
Productions directed by Mark W. Travis have garnered over 30 major awards, including: an Emmy, Drama-Logue, L.A. Weekly, Drama Critics’ Circle, A.D.A, and Ovation awards.
His film and television directing credits include: The Facts of Life, Family Ties, Capitol, Hillers, and the Emmy Award-winning PBS dramatic special, Blind Tom: The Thomas Bethune Story. Also the feature films Going Under (for Warner Bros. starring Bill Pullman and Ned Beatty), Earlet (documentary), The Baritones, and The 636.
On-stage, over the past 20 years, Mark has directed over 60 theatre productions in Los Angeles and New York, including: A Bronx Tale, Verdigris, The Lion in Winter, Mornings At Seven, Equus, Café 50s, And A Nightingale Sang, Wings, Linke vs. Redfield, The Coming of Stork and others.
Mark is the author of the Number-One Best Seller (L.A. Times), THE DIRECTOR’S JOURNEY: the Creative Collaboration between Directors, Writers and Actors. His second book on directing,
DIRECTING FEATURE FILMS (published in April of 2002) is currently used as required text in film schools worldwide. His third book, THE FILM DIRECTOR’S BAG OF TRICKS: Get What You Want from Writers and Actors was published in 2011. Mark’s popular DVD, HOLLYWOOD FILM DIRECTING, is available now.
MARK TRAVIS and ELSHA BOHNERT offer workshops and consultations on all aspects of storytelling for writers, directors and actors.