View Full Version : What is good directing?

12 December 2004, 09:21 PM
This may seem like a simple question, but what is considered good directing? ..or great directing? What separates a Scorsese from Ed Wood? Or less obviously, a master from a pedantic one?

If we could distill these points and learn from them, then perhaps we can all benefit.

But that brings up my 2nd question: How much is filmmaking Art vs. Science? ...and when does one sabotage the other?

12 December 2004, 09:31 PM
Being a great director comes down to can you tell your story in a coherent manner. It's about taking the best shots and actually reshooting bad ones (something Ed Wood never did). And for the question about art vs. science, they can work very well together as long as you understand your limitations with that science. It's cool that they could caputre Tom Hanks for all the character animation in The Christmas Express but it kinda killed the characters for me since they all acted the same. Just one more thing that helps is to practice. Do live action and CG and hone your skills, you'll come up good shots/flims sooner or later.

12 December 2004, 09:57 PM

Good directing is being able to see that things are going wrong in front of you at the time - and taking the action at the time to sort it out. Weither that be getting an actor of actors to do the same scene 57 times to get a good take. Or telling a bunch of people that its just not good enough and they have to do it all again.

12 December 2004, 10:11 PM
Your first question is a tough one. The idea of Direction it's self and it's importance has changed many times in the history of cinema. The best answer I can give you is that a good drector knows how to get what he wants with what he has. I know thats very vague, but each director has a different way of doing things. Of course we can all learn from others but truly great directors leave a mark on their films that are unmistakable. Thats all I can really say about this. I mean there are hundreds of technical aspects, and the more familiar you are with each one the easier directing will be. But even a master of all these things could be a horrible director. There movies would look good, but have no effect.
As for your second question. Everyone in filmaking should understand the science of what they are doing to such a point that it can be forgotten and then there is only art. Of course since were still pushing the limits every year it can be mind numbing trying to keep up with all of the advancments in all of the areas. But were here to make art, though some people seem to be here just to make money and bad movies. But at some point they were probably about art. As a direcor you can either try to know everything about the science of what your doing, which will probably never happen. Or you can hire good people you trust who know. And then utilize them. One of the most impotant steps of a making a flm is finding a good team of people who work well together. If every one has a mastery of the science of there particualr area (CG, sound, cinematography, ect..) and you, as the director have an idea of what goes on in each area and how that fits with the film your making, then science should never get in the way. It's not a balance, the science is something we use to make the art. Painters don't fret over the molecular structure of thier paints, the only thing that matters is how it interacts with the canvas and it's color. From there they use it as they see fit.
I hope that helps, and wasn't too long winded. ::smiles::

12 December 2004, 12:29 AM
Know your vision, but be open to better ideas that come along.
Remember that a good idea today is still good next week, next month. It's not new and thus may seem lame to you, but it's still good. So trust your early instincts.
Sell out for the moments that matter. Let the things that don't matter as much slide a little. Wise allocation of energies and resources is a gift.
Trust your audience. They really do want to like your film. They only don't when you force them not to.
Strong simple ideas executed excellently will always have a sublime quality of greatness. Convoluted ideas handled with less grace will come off foppish and flawed.
Kill your best and brightest ideas if they don't serve the story. A great director is a merciless murderer of their precious inventions for the greater good.
Find the conflict and negotition in every scene. If it's not there, then it doesn't belong in the movie.
Your primary job as a director is to manage the pace and flow of your story.
Trust those who are better than you at what they do. Give them a direction to head in, hold them accountable to that vision then let them run wild with it.

Those are a few things I try to keep in mind when I direct. These same truths keep coming back again and again.


12 December 2004, 09:15 AM
more of what Keith said, but in other terms:

- directing is gathering the creativity from a team. This makes the clarity of vision very important, because you have to convey this vision 20 times a day, not only getting other people's ideas in line with yours, but motivating them as to the how and why.

- Keith mentions accountability, which is often overlooked. The director has to be willing to let go in order to manage the volume of work, as well as allow for depth of quality by getting other visions to compliment his/her own. This brings credit and responsibility. Directors who nab credit for themselves won't make it very far and teams that don't accept responsibility will fall apart. I think that aniamted formats are so much more compressed than live-action that top quality comes mostly from team work.

- "Kill your ideas" - A pitfall is to hold on to segments or lines that you've fallen in love with. This is a real danger. Often, you fall in love with a bit, but it doesn't really work as seen in the whole. Worse, you onlyreally see that it's in your way once you've gotten rid of it, which you don't do because you love the little bastard.
Try this: periodically set your work to the side and rewrite the whole thing. In doing so, the main flow will surface more clearly, (that's what you remember) and things that are secondary in nature get overlooked. This confirms your skeleton and gives you a bit of distance to re-evaluate those bits that you fancy so much.

Just thoughts that came to me in reading these comments. I'm very cautious at any generality as to what a good director is or isn't - as everyone has their own styles and strengths and weaknesses. One thing is sure - more than anyone else, the director has to have a relaistic assessment of these strengths and weaknesses.

12 December 2004, 04:09 PM
in my opinion, good directing is conveying what u want to say without boring the audience.

as stated before, this can be solved in a thousand ways, with a thousand different stories and content. i know movies which are great, but which have no proper story or plot. sometimes, it's just about feeling and life itself (e.g. fellini's "amarcord"). i also think, that good directing is about finding your OWN way of doing things. yes, there are rules, but, as we all know, these rules are here to be learned and then broken according to your own goals.

i believe that every good director (fellini, godard, mendes, stone, renoir, murnau, list, coppola,... to name but a few) deleted and established some rules and guidelines, in order to be true to their own thoughts and style.

i guess, everybody should watch movies and look how the great directors have done their movies, and then establish his/her own way of thinking what good directing really is.


12 December 2004, 06:07 AM
One common thing really good directors have is that they already know the movie in their minds before any footages are shot. They can basically play out the entire movie in their heads, know exactly what they want, and pretty much just shoot the footages to match what they see in their head. And the most important thing is, that movie they have in their heads is not just any movie, but a GOOD MOVIE. Plenty of people can visualize in their minds, but the differences between a good or bad director are TASTE and TALENT.

12 December 2004, 05:07 PM
Good directing is skillful realization of an (original) idea by a director from script to screen. The good director knows his craft very well and is a storyteller by nature.

A logical visionary that knows how to (compromise but can) turn a bad script into a great film.

12 December 2004, 10:34 PM
Knowing when you're right and knowing when you're wrong.

12 December 2004, 08:55 AM
Learn about acting. You don't have to be a great actor yourself, but you have to know what to say (and, sometimes, do) to an actor to help them deliver their best performance. Even for voice actors. Too many student directors are great at coming up with cool shots but have absolutely no idea how to deal with the actors. And by "dealing with the actors" I don't mean just shouting, "Do it again! But faster, and more intense!" at them. ;)

Learn about editing. You don't have to be an Oscar-caliber editor, but having a general idea of how you want a scene or sequence to cut together, and why you think it's better that way, can only help. Try to visualize the scene, sequence, and entire movie. Again, lots of student directors are good at coming up with cool shots, but when cut together they just don't work as a whole. A bunch of cool shots edited together is just a music video. A bunch of shots that flow and cut together well to imbue a certain mood and tell a story is a movie.

And learn about cinematography, too. You don't have to be the next Conrad Hall, but the more knowledge you have about the various aspects of filmmaking and how they affect the movie, the better off you'll be.

12 December 2004, 11:39 PM
I suppose it comes down to what they know about their "tools". After that, I would say it comes down to timing. :shrug:

12 December 2004, 07:42 PM
I think a good director has the ability to see a project holistically, they have a strong and unique feel for the project. The director also knows what is important to a story and what isn't, they know when something has worked and they have it 'in the can'. A director has strong logistical and verbal skills to motivate and activate people into doing what is required for any particular scene. A director is also a good listener and is flexible enough and talented enough to switch things around if they feel a production needs modifications or an unforeseen problem presents itself.

Directing a CG film I think would be somewhat different to directing flesh and blood actors. With live actors you would have their acting ability to work with. Directing a CG film I think you would have to have an even stronger vision of the entire project, what you're trying to achieve. Similar to live action I think you would need to have a strong instinct to know if the shots you are creating have the desired effect, if the correct mood, tone and pace are being achieved and you have it in the can.

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