Friday, March 26, 2010

What's a director's vision and how can I get one? (Part 2.b)

There's more to interpretation than narrative style. In fact, interpretation is a huge area –– arguably the thing that truly defines a director.

Interpretation covers everything from the look of the film to the way a line is delivered. It's the pacing of a scene, the shirt an actor wears, how much rain is falling on a window, the music that plays (or doesn't). It's who shows up to work on the set and how they're treated.

Directing is interpretation.

Here's the thing, about interpretation. A lot of directors –– especially when they're starting out –– try to act like they think directors are supposed to. They wear black clothes, act like assholes, give their film a "look." They design shots to be "interesting," art direction to be quirky, performances to be unusual.


I mean it. Don't.

Forcing your work to be more interesting is an admission that you don't think you're inherently interesting. And you are. Really.

Or you're not. But if you're not, you're not going to be able to fool people into thinking you are, so don't even try.

Interpretation –– meaning your vision –– is about doing what's right. There's one right place to put the camera, one right way a line should be delivered, one right piece of music to emphasize the dramatic content of a scene... Your job is to find it. Create it. Make it.

This isn't a moral judgement. It's a taste thing. It's what works best for you.

You may admire Tim Burton, but you're not going to be him. And even if you could, I'm sorry. That position is already taken.

Be you.

Got that?


  1. Interested in this idea: "There's one right place to put the camera, one right way a line should be delivered, one right piece of music..."

    I have always felt that the director has a vision for how the film should move along and feel but, not dictate specifics ie. "Read your line like this..". Is this what your saying?


  2. You caught me in a contradiction, George. Thanks for pointing it out. I wasn't careful enough with my language.

    You're absolutely right, the specifics are not nearly as important as the intention behind them. If you want your actor to deliver the line, "It looks like rain," but the subtext is "I love you," it's a foolish director (and there are a lot of them out there) who would presume to give the actor a line reading.

    Same goes for every other element. Being a good director isn't about micromanaging. It's about clarity. Knowing what you want, assembling the right resources (including people), communicating your intentions, and evaluating what you're getting.

    I'm glad you called me on this.

  3. A wise Director once counseled me on how to help me find and develop that vision. Perhaps you could shed some light on how you would go about that.