View Full Version : How much detail?

10 October 2005, 05:51 AM
Hi, im an independent filmmaker who's writing/directing/producing/storyboarding/planning everything for the film. The actual process of creating the film will be done by myself and other's i hire like concept artists/vfx artists.

But, my question is, how much detail and information should a writer/director put into his film. What i mean by that is, how much should a writer/director know about the actual design and look of his film? Like the conceptual design for the movie. When I hire a concept artist, how much information do i tell him about the design I'm looking for, like to what extent?

Like, I know A LOT about what I'm looking for in the film, but i don't know every spec of detail in the film. Should a writer/director know about all the small details in his film? Or is that usually another persons job, like the conceptual artist? Does the writer/director just have general, yet specific idea in his head and the the concept artist figures out all the detail?

If the writer/director is supposed to know every bit of detail of his film. I can do that, but it'll be hard, like it's not impossible. But as a writer/director, I feel that when I'm thinking about specific detail in the film like set designs for example. I feel like this type of thinking is meant for another person who's an expert in that area. It's mainly thing's like set designs I'm worried about. With character designs i know EXACTLY what i want. But thinking about buildings and architecture and what not, that's a difficult area for me to think about.

So yah, that's what i'm wondering. How much should a writer/director know about his film, to what extent?

10 October 2005, 07:22 AM
Look at George Lucas--he doesn't have to know all those details. Thanks to his ILM and staff.

Also, don't pretend to know everything. Hire specialists. Just choose those deatails what you think are good to your film and discard the rest.

10 October 2005, 03:35 PM
I'd do as much reading as possible on the subject of filmmaking; there's certainly no shortage of books and videos out there. Even the behind-the-scenes videos on DVDs can be very helpful; not that you'll have access to the resources that a big budget movie does, but the general info can be useful. Getting stuck already at the point you're at is akin to saying "Hi, I want to be an animator and visual effects artist. Now, how does this mouse thing work?" Better to do as much research/learning now than to constantly run into problems later. There's no way to know everything in advance or avoid every problem, but you CAN prevent an awful lot of "darn, I wish I knew that before!" situations.


10 October 2005, 02:09 AM
This question is hard to answer, because it all depends on the size of the production and the person doing the job.

In response to a previous poster, from what I have observed through watching documentries, George Lucas signs off on EVERYTHING in his films. He does not come up with the concept art, many others do it for him, but he looks at their stuff, then tells them how he wants it changed. It goes back and forth like this for awhile, until he is happy. Then they can build real/cg mockups, and the process starts all over again.

I might approach a project this way:

1. Write the screenplay, in standard, industry format. No camera angles.
2. Hire artists, early production staff

The artists will read the screenplay and get ideas about concept art. You have to tell artists what you're looking for, so they have a basis to start from. Work together until you are satisfied by their results. Hire a few different concept artists if you have the money.

Work with a Cinematographer to break down the screenplay into a broken down shooting script. This is where you decide on camera angles. Storyboard the entire movie.

The cinematographer will also help you decide lighting/mood/film stock/etc...You tell him you want a certain LOOK and he can achieve that look. But you need to DIRECT him.

If there are any VFX, the VFX supervisor needs to be involved with this process, because they need to tell you if they can/can't do certain shots. They will also require certain shots to be done in specific ways to get a desired effect. If you leave the VFX Sup. out, it will backfire in the end. They need to know what you're up to, so they can develop a proper pipeline to work with your film.

3. Planning.

Pre production is as important as production. Make an ANIMATIC, it is priceless.

4. Shooting.


Was that specific enough? I hope it helps.

10 October 2005, 04:21 AM
Hey guys, thanks for your help. But, the question i asked is a really tricky question. It was hard to explain. I wasn't talking about the entire filmmaking production process. I'm just talking about that one specific part in pre-production. I've been doing pre-production work on my film since the beginning of Summer around June/July. I understand the importance of the pre-production process, through experience. If you ask me i think its WAY more important then the actual production process.

There's only so much a writer/director can think of on his own before he begins to hire other people to work on his film. And that's the question I'm asking, how much should a writer/diector do himself before hiring people to help him in specific areas? It's a really difficult question to answer if you dont' know what i'm talking about, than it's ok if no one knows the answer. I'll just move along with my own best judgement.

And about George Lucas, i've seen every single one of those behind-the-scene documentaries. And i personally dont like the way he makes movies. Just like how you guys stated how he doesnt know what he wants exactly and he mainly hires people to help him design everything for the film. The artist themselves are doing most of the work, then George Lucas. George Lucas just makes them do a hundred designs and he picks the best one...anyone can do that. Which i don't really respect. (and George Lucas isnt the only one who does this) I think a writer/director should know quite a lot about his own film more then anyone else, he should know exactly what he wants to a certain extent. And this again goes back to my main question, to what extent should a writer/director know about his film. But again like 'EricMLevy' stated, it really depends on the size of your production. So, I'm not talking about BIG BUDGET films and i'm not talking about low budget films either. Let's just make the production size in the middle of those two and discuss for that specific area. For an average size production team/budget.

P.S. Let's not make this topic about George Lucas, you can always make another thread for that, appreciate it.

10 October 2005, 06:08 PM
If you have the budget to hire people, then do so. Film making is a collaborative process. A saying my friend and I have:

Never press record and hold the mic at the same time.

This stems from our experience in school. We'd always be left to shoot stuff alone, and be setting up lights, holding the boom pole, operating the camera, jerking off a goat, and ruining a project all at once.

It always works better to bring in other people-- good people, who you trust. As far as pre-production goes, bringing in a storyboard artist to interpret what you and a DP tells him would be ideal.

As a director, you don't want to "Do Stuff." The less Stuff you're doing, the more available you'll be to make creative decisions.

On the production side, you can see this to be very true: The director is on set and thinks of a shot he wants. He explains the shot to his crew. BOOM, the DP has the grips working like crazy, he's working with the coreographer and the actors so the camera will be in the right place at the right time. They go back to the director who makes some creative decisions, etc...

The director's mind needs to be free to make these decisions. The director would not have thought of that shot if he was holding a mic, and setting up a light. The same goes for Pre-Pro. If you're drawing storyboards, making coffee, researchjing film stock, and building a steadicam, you'll be overloaded.

You need a vision of your script. I'd assume you have a pretty good one. Hire the people to realize it, or it probably won't work. A Director is also a Manager. Now you just need a staff to manage.

10 October 2005, 10:26 PM
Thanks Eric for your post, you were a lot more on the line of what i was talking about. I totally agree with you on all those things you said. How the director should be free from as many things as possible so he can think about the actual movie. As a writer/director if your doing way too many other jobs, you lose so much of your creativity and you lose your sense of direction with the movie. I know this through experience and it sucks.

A lot of those things you said i did agree with you, but not everything. Like, not working on storyboards. I personally love working on storyboards myself, as a visual effects artist, i'm able to design the entire movie in 3d, and make 3d animatics of the film. And literally see the movie taking shape through animatics. As a writer/director who has the 'vision' for the film. Doing the storyboards yourself is quite amazing, you get the exact shots your looking for, without telling someone else to do it for you. So yah, if your a writer/director and a vfx artist, then you've got an advantage over other directors who'll have to hire people to see their movie in storyboards. But again, this is for people a little under a normal sized production team/budget, more on the side of a low-budget production. If you obviously got the money to hire people to do the 3d animatics for you, great, as a director you get more free time to be creative, like Eric had noted.

P.S. Just saw your demo reel Eric, pretty good stuff man.

10 October 2005, 04:10 PM

Ultimately, it depends on what kind of director you want to be. There are directors who can hire people and then trust that they will get what they want without having to micromanage the entire process. Then there are directors who need to be in control of everything down to the hairstyle on the flea on the back of the dog that's running past the camera in the split second before the closing credits roll. People in the business are used to working for both (though it should be obvious which kind they'd rather work with).

I think you have to be prepared to be whichever kind it's going to take. Some people can handle the freedom of working with the first kind. Some can't. As director, you generally need to be whatever kind of director your employees need to produce their best work.

T'aint easy, Magee. Not by a long shot.

10 October 2005, 03:12 PM
What are the parts that are the most important to you and what are the least. Rank the parts in order of importance from most to least. Then get others to do the work on the parts that are the least important to you. It's a question of control. How much control do you wish to exert on your concept. These people that help you will still need to consult with you as to there work but let them do it. That's why you hired them.

Spend your time on the parts you love the most. This will keep you from micromanaging the project. Your the story teller. What will it take to tell your story? Telling the story is I'm thinking the most important part. If you have a very clear vision of what you want to say then you already know what you want. If you have a really good idea of what you want to say then bringing in others will help you over some of the bumps that your facing in your story. I would take a look around to see what concepts you like the most and go with the artists of those concepts. This will match as closely as possible your vision of what you want in your story. Don't hem them in unless you have a clear idea of what you want though as they are artists they will do what you want but let there creativtity work for you. You may be surprised at what they come up with perhaps something you didn't think of.

So long as the story is pretty clear there won't be to much if any deviation from that and as the story teller that's what's important. The individual elements are not as important as the story. In some instance it's not the sum of it's parts as so many like to look at film.

Pick the parts you want to work on the most (do those yourself) and deligate the other parts to those you'd like to do those the most. This will give you the best of both worlds.

10 October 2005, 12:34 AM
Hey pconsidine, i agree with everything your saying, it's make complete sense. But, i wonder what kind of director i am. If i wanted to i could micromanage everything for the entire film, but i'd have no life if i wanted to do that. Because there's no limit too how much you want to manage something, you just need to stop at one point and say to yourself, 'ok that's enough detail for me'. But again, same thing with giving the artist freedom to come up with ideas for the film. I'd like to know almost everything about the film, but then i'd like to collaborate with other people and let them have the freedom to think about certain things for the film. From an artist POV, being told what to do every time is kind of crappy. That's why i'd like to give them as much freedom as i can possibly give them. So...i have no clue where i stand, i'd like to micromanage everything, but not everything and i'd like to give the artist freedom, but not complete freedom, because i already have a vision in my head of what im looking for, but its not 100% clear. In terms of percentage, i have about 75% of the movie really clear in my head, the other 25% is sort of blurry. That 25% is mainly things like the conceptual designs of the movie. The story, the characters, the way i want the actions to look, are all clear to me. Even the 'look' (conceptual design) of the film is clear, but not 100%. Reading this back...i guess i don't have much of a problem, guess i got things under control.

Hey Ronson2k, thanks for advice, im going to definitely write a list down for all the things that are most important to me and the least. That'll actually really help out with organizing the film. I've already looked around on the net for concepts that look similar to the characters and set designs i'm looking for on the film. So that'll help out when talking with other concept artist. You'd think making a list of what you like the most and least would be a simple thing to think of, but i actually never thought of that. This will really help me with planning the film, thanks for that Ronson2k, appreciate it!

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