Therapy: On Set Directing

by Jean-Paul Damé

When I direct talent I find that it is a lot like therapy, I am always aware of the repercussions of my every word and action upon the actor.  (In another article I'll discuss how we as directors affect our production crew performance). We all know how emotional and sensitive actors are, as creative people, we all are, however the actor is being asked to take off their armor. The same armor we all wear everyday. This removal of armor gives you the director access to very powerful intimate areas of the actors psyche.

 

Some tips I have learned as a director; critique is for teachers and acting coaches, so avoid critique, leave that to the critics and the audience – who, as we all know, are mostly oblivious to the acting/directing process.

 

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Producing & DIRECTING 101:

TIME MANAGEMENT

by Jean-Paul Damé

I’ve seen this time and time again over my career producers and directors who do not properly time managing their production days. They try to squeeze two days of production into one 10 hour day. They don’t allow time for set-up, bathroom breaks, lunch or time for company moves. They are stressed and pass that stress on to the crew.

 

After being on hundreds of shoots like those, it became abundantly clear that the producers and or directors did not know how to properly time manage their productions. (I am giving the benefit of the doubt that they were not A$$-Hats… Some of them were).

 

TIME MANAGEMENT IS A MAIN FOCUS - THE DIRECTOR

As directors we manage budget allocation for Pre-Production, Production and Post-Production.

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Producing & DIRECTING 101:

TIME MANAGEMENT

by Jean-Paul Damé

 

I’ve seen this time and time again over my career producers and directors who do not properly time managing their production days. They try to squeeze two days of production into one 10 hour day. They don’t allow time for set-up, bathroom breaks, lunch or time for company moves. They are stressed and pass that stress on to the crew.

 

After being on hundreds of shoots like those, it became abundantly clear that the producers and or directors did not know how to properly time manage their productions. (I am giving the benefit of the doubt that they were not A$$-Hats… Some of them were).

 

TIME MANAGEMENT IS A MAIN FOCUS - THE DIRECTOR

As directors we manage budget allocation for Pre-Production, Production and Post-Production. Each phase has its own budget and time allowances based upon the project overall budget and delivery time-line. You as the director who works closely with the producer, split those funds to achieve the clients end goal. So going over-budget due to poor time management can be costly on profit or a career ender.

 

HOW DO YOU ACHIEVE PROPER TIME MANAGEMENT?

Being the Producer/director is a lot like a conductor for an orchestra. YOU orchestrate the many moving parts during the entire project to achieve a seamless and smooth running production, even if that production is in reality a running train wreck. Field production is a stressful enough adventure without adding poor time management. Your job as a director is to remain calm and be decisive in your direction. Your actions have a direct influence on the crew, talent and the client.

 

MY TIPS FOR A DIRECTOR ON TIME MANAGEMENT:

Know every crew members job and the length of time needed to set-up and tear down.

I personally felt the need to master each position before I moved into a director role. This way I knew first-hand each crew position.

Give yourself extra time for production set up.

What if make-up runs long? What if before you record – audio or camera needs to change batteries? How much time does it take to change a light bulb or LED? What if there is no replacements? What if Electric blows a breaker? What if the client is late on set? What if talent shows up late? Did you plan time to change the shot if you don’t like the way the DP has the scene set up?

Did you allocate time for script change? (This one happens more often than you think and causes the most delay in production time and is responsible for budget overages).

Are you using a teleprompter? Did you allocate time for script changes to get to the prompter?

Budget time for the crew to use the bathroom.  (In my 35 years of production, I feel I am the only one who plans for this “natural” need for the crew. It is amazing that the producer will always make time for themselves to breakaway, but not the crew).

 

Budget time for crew meals and breaks

I always plan 60 minutes for crew lunch in the middle of the day. An army moves on its stomach and so does a production crew. If you feed them well and don’t treat them like livestock, they will work harder for you and your productions will benefit from it.

 

IF you finish early…wrap early. It is that simple.

As a producer/director you know exactly what you have to get each day. Don’t make up shots to burn the clock because you have a crew for 10 hours. Now you're just being an A$$-Hat.

 

HOW MUCH EXTRA TIME DO I PUT INTO MY SCHEDULES?

I always add 30 minutes to the first shot of the day for what I call “Coffee and Good Morning”. It always takes a crew 30 minutes to get going in the morning. I add 30 minutes to every set up. (Bathroom breaks, script change, batteries, bulbs + Murphy’s Law is time budgeted here for each set up). I budget 60 minutes for lunch, even if it is brought in. If we have to leave location for lunch, the time remains 60 minutes to include round-trip travel time for lunch.

 

Knowing how long each set-up should take and by giving yourself a little cushion in time for each location, will allow you the time to handle calmly and professionally the chaos that is ever present on set. Not only will you as the producer/director gain the respect and loyalty of your crew, but more importantly the loyalty and satisfaction from your clients. How you “Conduct” yourself on location, sets the example for your crew and the tone to an efficient and profitable running production.

 

 

Jean-Paul Damé - Television Producer/Director

 

Therapy: On Set Directing

 

by Jean-Paul Damé

 

When I direct talent I find that it is a lot like therapy, I am always aware of the repercussions of my every word and action upon the actor.  (In another article I'll discuss how we as directors affect our production crew performance). We all know how emotional and sensitive actors are, as creative people, we all are, however the actor is being asked to take off their armor. The same armor we all wear everyday. This removal of armor gives you the director access to very powerful intimate areas of the actors psyche.

 

Some tips I have learned as a director; critique is for teachers and acting coaches, so avoid critique, leave that to the critics and the audience – who, as we all know, are mostly oblivious to the acting/directing process.

 

Be positive and supportive to the actor. Remember that your future as a director lays in their ability to feel comfortable and at ease on set. So any feedback should be positive, even when you are not getting the performance you want or need. Saying something like  "No,No No! I want you to be more angry! He is about to steal your purse from you!" is not helpful and can intimidate the actor. Which leads to additional takes, they lose their ability to be 'in the moment' and you fail as the director. Try something like "Good, I have that version in the can. Now this time I want you to let him see that you are NOT happy about the fact that he is stealing your purse, in fact, if you feel angry about that...go ahead let him have it! Let go and let's see what happens". You might be surprised that once the talent feels safe and free to express with out criticism, you'll find yourself at a new level of directing and creative satisfaction.

 

 

Jean-Paul Damé - Television Producer/Director

 

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