Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

How can you spot good direction?


Recommended Posts

If someone wants to watch a movie where the director just let actors do whatever they wanted within the broad framework of the 'comedy' genre then watch SCAVENGER HUNT (1979).  Richard Benjamin was most enjoyable as attorney Stuart Selsome -- a first-rate ambulance chaser!   I'm not saying it's a great movie.  It makes me laugh, but it bombed at the box office way back when.  I just can't see there's any way some of the dialogue and actions of the characters could've been precisely scripted.  Just too off-the-wall.  Michael Schultz likely just gave the actors some broad direction and let them go from there.  Like when James Coco puts the paper bag over his head to help rob the market . . . but there's no •eyeholes• in his bag.  So he's stumbling around the market saying "I HAVE NO HOLES!!!".   Then he lands on some eggs.  Oops!  Makes me laugh every time.    :)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting topic.  I always wondered how a noted director/actor like Welles had input into The Third Man.  And, it is not just the director - it is the cinematographer, the one responsible for the film's score, a good editor, etc. that goes into film making.

Link to post
Share on other sites
14 minutes ago, chaya bat woof woof said:

Interesting topic.  I always wondered how a noted director/actor like Welles had input into The Third Man.  And, it is not just the director - it is the cinematographer, the one responsible for the film's score, a good editor, etc. that goes into film making.

Yes it's a collaborative effort. And one I don't think I'd be very happy working in. Too many cooks, as they say. 

But to my question, which I still haven't seen a satisfactory answer to, I can hear a good score, good sound, and I can see good photography, and comment on it in a review while giving concrete examples. But good direction, and now that you mention it, good editing, I can't see without also seeing what was cut out. I always get the feeling when I read a reviewer say a movie was well-directed that he or she is just making an assumption. And a pretentious one at that. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 3/18/2021 at 9:10 PM, LuckyDan said:

Right I know what a director does, and that some do more than others, but when I am watching a movie, I don't see the actors rehearse, I don't witness the camaraderie on set, or hear the director's consultations with the art and technical people. And neither do critics who write about the great direction. 

I can't help but suspect we tend to over-credit directors for the things we like about their movies. I have never watched a scene and thought, damn that is some fine direction right there. I've thought it about acting, and music, and imagery, but not direction. So how do critics see it and credit it to the director?

The one thing I can think of might be blocking, or how two or more actors move and physically interact on the set. I have to think that isn't written into a screenplay. But what else is there that is apparent to a viewer?

I think good direction is the fact that you can say that you don't notice what the director did. As TopBilled said well, a director is like a conductor. When doing a Hollywood movie, you have the best of the craft on set and behind the scenes. A director can fine tune the effect of the script, the effect of the scenery, the effect of the acting and so on. When a movie looks believable and natural, that is a good thing. A good director will have the viewer see and hear what he ultimately wants to get across, but he has to trust his crew. When a costumer presents an idea to the director he/she has read the script and used many years of expertise in what is chosen. The cinematographer frames and moves the camera in a way he thinks the script calls for and what the director wants. All those applies to the lighting crew, set designer, set decorator and a multitude of other professional crew. It is often you walk onto a set and it is a fine tuned machine even though this cast and crew was just put together for that particular movie. Why? It is because of professionalism, and the salaries of both cast and crew, even though often high, gets justified by efficiency of their work. A well paced, safe production is a thing of beauty to see and be part of.

As a side note, a production member has to do their job well to get hired in the future. The same should apply to a director who brings in a movie on time and on budget and is faithful to the idea of the story within the script.

Link to post
Share on other sites

An alternate title to this thread could be, It is impossible to identify good film directing from looking at the finished product only. Change my mind. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Stallion said:

I think good direction is the fact that you can say that you don't notice what the director did. As TopBilled said well, a director is like a conductor. When doing a Hollywood movie, you have the best of the craft on set and behind the scenes. A director can fine tune the effect of the script, the effect of the scenery, the effect of the acting and so on. When a movie looks believable and natural, that is a good thing. A good director will have the viewer see and hear what he ultimately wants to get across, but he has to trust his crew. When a costumer presents an idea to the director he/she has read the script and used many years of expertise in what is chosen. The cinematographer frames and moves the camera in a way he thinks the script calls for and what the director wants. All those applies to the lighting crew, set designer, set decorator and a multitude of other professional crew. It is often you walk onto a set and it is a fine tuned machine even though this cast and crew was just put together for that particular movie. Why? It is because of professionalism, and the salaries of both cast and crew, even though often high, gets justified by efficiency of their work. A well paced, safe production is a thing of beauty to see and be part of.

As a side note, a production member has to do their job well to get hired in the future. The same should apply to a director who brings in a movie on time and on budget and is faithful to the idea of the story within the script.

I said something similar in March (to someone else) about directors and  so called "good direction":   Your post reminds  me something I heard related to sports about referees and umpires:      One knows they are doing good work when one doesn't notice them.

 

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

In this excerpt from an interview conducted by the CBC in 1960, Orson Welles talks about directing.  At:3:40 he talks about the "overblown" role of the movie director. Motion picture directing is "the most overrated job in the world. The only job a director can do in a film of real value is to do something more than what will happen automatically." 

My point has been that we cannot as consumers of the end product possibly know what would have happened automatically, or what that "something more" brought by the director was. We like to credit the director for movies we enjoy, especially if that director's name is attached to other movies we like that might have the same stylistic touches (John Ford, a director Welles would later praise richly, comes to mind), but unless we are on set and observing the process, we can't know truly what that director's contribution was.

At 4:50 the interviewer notes there are a lot of bad director's at work, prompting Orson to say the quiet part out loud. "There are more bad directors at work than people know." Bam! "Movie directing is the only profession in the world where you can be incompetent and go on being successful for thirty years with nobody ever discovering it. I mean utterly and truly incompetent." 

Dayum.

So how can a movie director bring that something more he spoke of? By also being, he says, something of, if not completely, a cameraman, an editor, an actor, a writer, which sounds like the stuff auteur theorists like to talk about. "Then," Orson says, "his contribution is a real one. Otherwise he is simply the man that says action, cut, take it a little slower, take it a little faster, and nobody will ever discover that he doesn't know anything."

If such a director - and this is me talking but I think Orson implies this - is lucky enough to find himself with a clever script, a top-notch photographer, talented actors, and other expert technical people, he will very likely get more credit than he has coming, with reviewers praising his masterful direction. 

For those interested in more of this interview, it can be found in it's 52 minute entirety on YT under the title "Orson Wells (sic) - The Paris Interview"
 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, LuckyDan said:

In this excerpt from an interview conducted by the CBC in 1960, Orson Welles talks about directing.  At:3:40 he talks about the "overblown" role of the movie director. Motion picture directing is "the most overrated job in the world. The only job a director can do in a film of real value is to do something more than what will happen automatically." 

My point has been that we cannot as consumers of the end product possibly know what would have happened automatically, or what that "something more" brought by the director was. We like to credit the director for movies we enjoy, especially if that director's name is attached to other movies we like that might have the same stylistic touches (John Ford, a director Welles would later praise richly, comes to mind), but unless we are on set and observing the process, we can't know truly what that director's contribution was.

At 4:50 the interviewer notes there are a lot of bad director's at work, prompting Orson to say the quiet part out loud. "There are more bad directors at work than people know." Bam! "Movie directing is the only profession in the world where you can be incompetent and go on being successful for thirty years with nobody ever discovering it. I mean utterly and truly incompetent." 

Dayum.

So how can a movie director bring that something more he spoke of? By also being, he says, something of, if not completely, a cameraman, an editor, an actor, a writer, which sounds like the stuff auteur theorists like to talk about. "Then," Orson says, "his contribution is a real one. Otherwise he is simply the man that says action, cut, take it a little slower, take it a little faster, and nobody will ever discover that he doesn't know anything."

If such a director - and this is me talking but I think Orson implies this - is lucky enough to find himself with a clever script, a top-notch photographer, talented actors, and other expert technical people, he will very likely get more credit than he has coming, with reviewers praising his masterful direction. 

For those interested in more of this interview, it can be found in it's 52 minute entirety on YT under the title "Orson Wells (sic) - The Paris Interview"
 

The smartest thing a director can do is to get a good cinematographer to attached themselves to. I have literally witnessed an actor given a directing opportunity continuously go to the cinematographer and say "Bob, what do you think?" A whole episode of the number one tv show in the world, during its heyday, was basically directed by the cameraman. The funny thing is I thought that was a wise move by this particular actor who was directing. He knew the cameraman had set up the shots for many years on this tv show and would know how to continue the style and be quick in its execution. To the best of my memory, that was an episode shot quickly and efficiently.

Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, Stallion said:

The smartest thing a director can do is to get a good cinematographer to attached themselves to. I have literally witnessed an actor given a directing opportunity continuously go to the cinematographer and say "Bob, what do you think?" A whole episode of the number one tv show in the world, during its heyday, was basically directed by the cameraman. The funny thing is I thought that was a wise move by this particular actor who was directing. He knew the cameraman had set up the shots for many years on this tv show and would know how to continue the style and be quick in its execution. To the best of my memory, that was an episode shot quickly and efficiently.

Stallion. Please. Give. Who was Bob? Who was the actor? What was the TV show?

Link to post
Share on other sites

On Dallas, the cinematographer was Bob Caramico. Really sharp guy who came from filming action in WW2. All the directors on that show were wise to seek his advice. Because I am still kind of connected to the industry and even people connected with that show, I would prefer not to mention the actor.

Link to post
Share on other sites
13 minutes ago, Stallion said:

On Dallas, the cinematographer was Bob Caramico. Really sharp guy who came from filming action in WW2. All the directors on that show were wise to seek his advice. Because I am still kind of connected to the industry and even people connected with that show, I would prefer not to mention the actor.

With television, I would think the look of the show has to be uniform from week to week, so camera angles and lighting become pretty much set in place early on. The actors know their characters after awhile, so they rely less and less on a director's protection to keep them consistent. A smart director would choose to stay out of the way and stick to saying action and cut. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, LuckyDan said:

With television, I would think the look of the show has to be uniform from week to week, so camera angles and lighting become pretty much set in place early on. The actors know their characters after awhile, so they rely less and less on a director's protection to keep them consistent. A smart director would choose to stay out of the way and stick to saying action and cut. 

You are absolutely right. In this case, some of these actors were being given their very first opportunity to direct so I could see the temptation of wanting to appear as a real director to themselves and others. Fortunately that didn't happen much as many of the actors either got a chance to direct or write an episode. I think the reason they really did this was to get the actors extra money, in this way, because they couldn't pay them any higher as actors.

I think movies are a little different, however. If Charles Laughton is directed Night of the Hunter, he probably wants to sees specifics from the characters, even those he knows and trusts. Of course, a movie is a one shot deal whereas tv shows, as you stated, have actors well entrenched in their characters and know how the character would react in situations.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
© 2021 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...