Yesterday I attended the Filmmakers Market at Bafta, a day of masterclasses, round-table discussions and one-on-one surgeries. Highlights included frank discussion about the ups and downs of directing with Bharat Nalluri (Life on Mars), Penny Woolcock (Tina Goes Shopping) and Neil Marshall (The Descent), and career tips from a panel comprising the NFTS, BFI, Film London and others. Here are the stand-out nuggets I took away from the event:
- Even in this age when it’s relatively easy to make a micro-budget feature, shorts are still considered the best calling cards. One of the panellists claimed that if you make a bad first feature it will be a decade before anyone lets you make another one…. A truth all too familiar to me.
- Most of us aspire to work in feature films, but don’t forget that most working directors are employed in TV, and even if you do become successful in the cinematic arena, chances are that you will have got there by laying down the groundwork in TV, music promos or commercials.
- Although there are exceptions (Bryan Singer, Robert Rodriguez…) generally no-one under 35 is going to make a decent feature film; you just don’t have enough life experience. Based on how my work has matured as I speed towards that unfortunate age I am inclined to believe this.
- Qualities that make a good director: understanding of story and editing; ability to listen and communicate, particularly with actors; the flexibility to turn the inevitable compromises of the shoot into improvements. “The enemy of art is the absence of limitations,” said Orson Welles.
- All three of the director panellists dislike storyboarding and rehearsals because they kill the on-set spontaneity, but they concede that preparation is necessary even if it all goes out of the window when you start to work with the actors on the day.
- The director’s job is to create an environment in which the cast can do their best work. Every actor/director relationship is different – figure out what each person needs from you.
What do you reckon to this advice? What great tips have you heard for new and emerging filmmakers?
(By the way, I highly recommend getting yourself on Bafta’s mailing list because they often have interesting events like this.)