Posted July 24, 2012 by Peter D. Marsay in Features
 
 

Dexter Fletcher's Directing Tips 2


In celebration of the DVD and Blu-ray release of Dexter Fletcher’s rip-roaring directorial debut Wild Bill, FilmJuice was invited to an exclusive directing workshop. In this second part of a two-part feature, filmmaker Peter D Marsay talks us through Dexter’s Top Ten Tips for directing success.

In celebration of the DVD and Blu-ray release of Dexter
Fletcher’s rip-roaring directorial debut
Wild
Bill, FilmJuice was invited to an exclusive directing workshop. In this second part of a two-part
feature, filmmaker Peter D Marsay talks us through Dexter’s Top Ten Tips for
directing success.

6. Keep
your crew happy – everyone is important

“Most people on a film set do it because they are genuinely
passionate about film, and on the long days you’ve got to help them remember
that.”

Fletcher kept his crew happy by being inclusive,
acknowledging their contributions and respecting their passion. “Even the lowly runner does a job and
it’s an important one,” he said, “it’s about remembering that.”

Don’t take anyone for granted. A happy crew is a hardworking
crew. It also helps to feed them
well and keep the coffee flowing!
Coffee is the oil that keeps the human machinery of many a crew running
efficiently.

7. Take
risks – just do it!

If you’re not taking risks, then you probably won’t get
anywhere as a filmmaker. In many
ways, choosing to be a filmmaker in the first place is a risk! “Of course take risks,” said Fletcher,
“but calculated ones.”

So how can a director use this philosophy of risk taking to
get the most out of their cast and crew?
“It’s about pushing other people to take risks. Ask [your actors and director of
photography] to do stuff that they feel out on a limb on, but ultimately gain
their trust and make them take a risk that you’re in control of. That’s the calculated risk. You’re
pushing people to raise their game in a way that they’ve maybe not expected to,
but when they do it they go ‘wow’ and they deliver, because it’s about your
faith in what other people can do.”

8. Collaborate
– be open to suggestions

One of the key features of being an effective director is
knowing how to put the talent at hand to maximum use. It’s all too easy to be precious and thereby stunt
productivity, so remember that ‘collaborate’ is a word used by filmmakers again
and again to explain what makes a truly creative team.

Dexter Fletcher is no exception, and spoke plenty on the
topic of collaborating: “Heads of department are there because they’ve achieved
a lot and understand a lot about what it is that they do, and so it’s okay to
defer to other people. It’s part
of the collaborative nature of it.
You can say ‘no’, but it’s okay to ask the question and find out what
other people think.”

9. Be
prepared – know your project inside out

There’s no excuse for a director, especially
writer-directors not to know their story better than anybody else. On set, you always need to know the
context of the scene you’re shooting at a given moment. As Fletcher put it, “You’ve got to be
aware of what it is that you’re shooting, what went before it, what’s going to
come after it.”

But how can you achieve such a level of preparation and
intimacy with the material? “The
preparation is a natural part of it, I don’t think I was really even aware of
it [directing Wild Bill], I was just involved with absolutely everything all
the way along the line.”

Full immersion in the script and hands on involvement with
every department are core elements of the director’s job and preparation.

10. Let
things go – edit brutally!

Once you’ve made your film and the stress (and thrill!) of
the shoot is over, then it’s time to sit down and piece it together in the edit
suite. Have you ever wondered why
DVD and Blu-rays so often include ‘deleted scenes’ as a bonus feature? It doesn’t matter how much time you
sweated getting the perfect light for that scene you’re in love with … if it
doesn’t move the story forward, then it has got to go. Said Fletcher: “You’ve got to be
brutal, you’ve got to be able to [ask] is it furthering the story?”

This can be painful, and it’s usually helpful if the
director and editor are not the same person, because then the editor is able to
look at the film objectively and suggest cuts to the director, persuading them
to wave even choice material goodbye.
Fletcher is all too familiar with this, “There’s whole sections of Wild
Bill that I just cut out because it wasn’t moving the story along. It doesn’t matter how you feel
personally about something, you’ve got to try and be as impersonal about it as you
can when it comes to the edit. It
feels brutal at the time, but it’s about being practical and making the best
film that you can.”

Of course, it’s up to you what stays in the film and what
gets left on the cutting room floor, but it might be wise to bear Fletcher’s
final thoughts in mind when you’re splicing and dicing your first film: “Nobody
cares what you love. What [the
audience] care about is whether they go to the cinema, watch the film and are
entertained.”

Ask yourself, ‘am I making this film for myself, or for the
audience?’ If you’re Steven Spielberg and answered the
latter, then well done! You’ve got
a bright future. And if you’re Quentin Tarantino and answered the
former, then well done to you too!
Some director’s styles are more commercial than others, and these are
just tips after all … food for thought for filmmakers.

Now go make your movie! And don’t forget the ‘kick in the nuts’ shot.

Wild Bill is released on Blu-ray and DVD on 23rd July, from
Universal Pictures UK.


Peter D. Marsay

 
I'm a filmmaker based in London, freelancing as a cameraman, camera assistant, editor, writer & director. I have a Sony HXR-NX5 camera, camera assistant kit & Final Cut Pro 7 edit suite.