A few sunsets ago, I notice the light appears to be pink.
I went outside with a camera.
Another interesting article in the LA times.
A brilliant article in Indiewire by Melissa Silverstein.
Will post more later.
This line was directed toward me, late one night, in a field outside Wilmington, North Carolina.
It was a big production. The biggest this studio has made at the time. It involved a few units:
The main unit – shooting the plot with the actors
The stunt unit – shooting things that did not involve the actors
Miniature unit – Since the movie involved a giant, and that was before visual effects became so popular, an actor in a suit was put in miniature surrounding duplicating the location we were shooting at.
Giant mechanical parts of the monster to be shot with actors, like an arm.
Full size monster being surrounded by live people and carried by a helicopter.
To orchestrate it all, a very experienced director has been hired. He was known as a master of disaster movies and did a few that brought in a lot of money.
But he wasn’t passionate about this project. He was doing it for the money and hated the producers who were haggling about every expenditure. He was tired and despite living many years in Los Angeles still considered himself and was proud to be – a Brit.
Why is it important? Because he surrounded himself with Brits, including the 1st Assistant Director. This guy was good. Very good at keeping the director happy with long, and mostly liquid, lunches. Good at surrounding himself with people who are ready to move up in their profession and have a lot of experience, and good at deflecting any blame to other departments or people, calling them all ‘morons’ and ‘incompetent bunch’.
The director and his assistant were both drinking heavily, mostly after work. Starting at 5 pm the British Property Master would bring the director a generous shot of whisky in a paper cup and would refill it dutifully until the end of the workday. But sometimes work started at the usual drinking hour, and as the night wore off the director would get more and more impossible to talk to.
This was a night like that.
We didn’t have much to shoot in pages, but it involved an army. 200 soldiers, a few tanks and a helicopter. It took a few hours to put all the pieces in place, arm the soldiers with blanks, put explosive charges where the tank were supposed to be hitting and so on. The first take started and something went wrong. One of the tanks wouldn’t move. We had to stop shooting. When the director heard that it will take at least 2 hours before another take will be possible, he became agitated.
The 2nd take went all the way through but looked pathetic. We had to shoot it again.
The director had it. He’s not going to wait another 2 hours for a take. He turned to the Assistant Director and barked “You do it. You know what I want.” He jumped into the car his driver keept warm and disappeared, leaving behind his nephew who was hired to be his personal assistant and lived with him in the specious rented house on Bald Head island.
The nephew didn’t care. He was glad to spend the night on the set away from being a sounding board to everything the director found irritating. He happily followed me around.
What the director forgot to talk to the Assistant Director about was an additional shot that had to be done that night.
I pointed that out and the Assistant Director gave one look at the script and jumped into action setting the shot up. He was full of energy, full of stamina. This was his moment to shine, do things as he wants them to be done, not the director. He will show them how it can be done quickly and efficiently… He was the general and that was his army.
Half way through this setting up, I noticed something was wrong. Grabbing him by the sleeve to make him stop for a minute I whispered: “Hey, they supposed to be retreating, not advancing!” He ordered the nephew to bring him his bag, looked at some story boards as said: “You have no bloody idea what you are talking about. Stick you nose in your script and shut up!”
That’s it. I lost all credibility with him and there’s no one else to talk to. It’s 4 am. There are no producers on the set – they were all kicked off at the beginning of the night by the director who didn’t want them to see him drink, so he found a reason for a tantrum. The Director of Photography didn’t want to get involved in this dispute. I was alone against the 1st British Assistant Director who looked down at me and avoided my advice.
We shot it very quickly and when the sky turned dark grey the workday was over.
A few days later I was asked to come to the set a few minutes earlier to talk to the director. That wasn’t unusual. When we had a complicated scene, he would dictate to me the shots he feels he needs and it was my job to make sure we didn’t forget any. But this time he wasn’t in his office. He was sitting on a chair at the corner of the stage and looked mad as hell. By this point in the shoot, everyone was afraid of him. He had an acerbic tongue and hit you were it hurts. We are not going to talk about the shots of the day, I gathered, something else is up.
Just then the nephew rushed in with a cup of tea, which wasn’t to the director’s liking. He berated his kin with devastating words about his inability to perform any task correctly and turned to me.
“What kind of script supervisor are you? Do you know at all what you’re doing?”
If he expected an answer, none was coming.
“The bloody army was supposed to be retreating! Not advancing! Retreating! Have you read the bloody script at all?”
Still couldn’t say much. My tongue turned to stone.
“You made me look bad! You know how much money this mistake will cost the production? How could you have done such a mistake?”
I finally came to.
“But… I told …”
“Told what to whom? Speak up!”
Goddamn it! I’m trying!
Out of the blue the nephew chimed in, from somewhere in the background. ”She told the 1st Assistant Director they supposed to be retreating and he told her to stick her nose in the script and shut up. I heard it.” The camaraderie of the walking wounded, I guess.
“Is that true?”
“Go get him!” Of course he will not skip a confrontation.
Faced with collaboration from the nephew, The Assistant Director had to admit he made a mistake.
He got reprimanded by a wag of the figure and a date for dinner after work that night.
Being a television director, aside from answering thousands of questions a day and making decisions left and right that will impact the quality and the look of the episode, you are constantly fighting the clock.
12 hours don’t pass as quickly in any other profession I know. If you want to continue working you have to be on time – not to create overtime and cost the production extra money. You have to shoot every line of dialogue as written, and if the actor resists, call a writer to the set to suggest solutions. That takes time. Time that otherwise would have been devoted to shooting the plan you know so well and ready to execute.
Balancing the anxiety of being on time with not compromising the quality of the episode and enraging the actors is what every director struggles with.
The truth of the matter is that some producers make it a losing battle.
An example of a show I was involved in (it doesn’t matter in what capacity, I have seen it happen many times in different positions on the set).
A one hour episode of a dramatic series is actually 42-44 minutes long. The rest of the time is devoted to commercials. It is shot in 7-8 days.
This specific episode came, at it’s first director’s cut, 13 minutes too long.
What does it mean?
- it means that 2 shooting days have had to be cut out of the episode. Yes, two whole shooting days! The average screen time per day is around 6 1/2 minutes.
- Cutting the episode to size required taking out a whole story line. It left the characters a little ‘leaner’ with details missing.
- It left holes in the episode. In some cases you had to make a ‘leap of faith’, hoping the audience will get it.
- It wasn’t shot to look like that. All the transitions from one story to another looked different now.
- The very experienced director, who has over many hours of TV under his belt, was ‘running behind’ – creating overtime. He was worried and was struggling to cut corners to make it.
All that could have been avoided if the script was timed correctly and/or the script supervisor’s script timing was taken seriously.
I have worked on many shows as script supervisor. I’ve timed hundreds of scripts. Only few of the producers gave my script timing a look. In some cases I drew their attention that the episode we are about to shoot is very long. Smart producers went to the writers and asked them to trim the script down. Not so smart producers shook their heads and dismissed me, only to come to the set at the end of the day and yell at us ‘doing overtime’. As if 12 hours of work is not long enough for crew members and we are still there just to spite him and fuck up his numbers.
Accurate script timing can save a lot of money, pressure, discord and misery. If only producers took it more seriously.
I’ve opened a script timing site to provide this service to people who are about to embark on this adventure called making movies. I figured this way I might save some director the agony of not being on time.
As I was looking for an image to add to the posts, I came across the page in Google images.
99.9% of the pictures include women fighting clad in very minimal clothes. Usually no more than a bikini.
Really?! that is how they fought? Wearing a bikini?
I managed to find an image that does not sexsualize women fighters.
Another article, this time from Forbes.
Yet another one – this time from truthdig
Yes, there are more than one fighting the fight, trying to change the numbers. As time pass and we age, our windows of opportunities are closing fast.
Apparently, I’m not the only one taking my frustration to the internet.
Here’s a site done by my friend, Maria Giese – a feature film director fighting to have a career in the profession of her choice.
Help us change the numbers of women behind the camera, by showing that you care and willing to stand to a fight for equity.
Females in Key Creative Positions by Genre Type
Across 11 years (2002-2012) of programmed U.S. feature-length films at the Sundance Film
Festival, 29.8% of content creators (directors, writers, producers, cinematographers, editors)
were female. This translates into 2.36 males to every 1 female behind the camera. Significant
findings were found regarding content creator gender in three areas: storytelling genre (narrative vs. documentary), creative position (director, writer, producer, cinematographer, editor),
and Festival program section (Competition, Premieres, and Niche=Midnight, NEXT, New
Consistent with other research, the independent documentary culture appears to be
more egalitarian than the culture surrounding independent narrative content creation.
One-quarter (25.3%) of all content creators were female in narratives (n=1,911), whereas
39.1% were female in documentaries (n=1,422).
We further examined specific behind-the camera posts (see Table 1), finding that gender varies significantly by genre type.
Just under 17% of directors were female in the narrative film category, which is less than half of the percentage of female directors in documentaries (34.5%). A large gap was observed between
female producers in narratives (29.4%) and documentaries (45.9%). Narratives were also
less likely than documentaries to feature female writers, cinematographers, or editors in