Becoming a Director – The Ever-Evolving Process

Becoming a Director – The Ever-Evolving Process

Directing is, for me, the best part of being a filmmaker.

So I subbed for an acting workshop that my husband teaches at Casa 0101 in Boyle Heights tonight. He’s in Berlin at a film festival with a film he’s nominated for directing.

It’s a scene class and the actors had been given various scenes to work on with each other and my task was to give them feedback and direction, etc.

Casa is a great place, very inspiring and artistic and very well funded, so the class is frequented by some really interesting and diverse actors.  We had about three hours to work on four or five scenes that they had already been working on for a few weeks.  I haven’t directed in a while, most of the projects I have been working on lately I’ve been DP, producing or editing.  Although I did direct a nice little zombie film a few weeks ago that I am currently putting together, that was something I wrote myself, directing someone else’s material is a totally different concept, and can be more fun in some ways. You can be much less precious about every single word because…well… they’re not your words!

I let them run the scenes and then I gave them some notes and everyone else in the class discussed the scene as well. Then they did the scene all over again, with the adjustments.  We also ran the scenes a few more times in the second half of the class, after they were looser and had the opportunity to digest the ideas we had discussed.

It was brilliant…

It reminded me why I like actors in fact.  Here we all were, in a room of about 200 square feet, with beautiful art by local artists hanging on the walls and the theatre next to us holding a rehearsal for the next play going up and it all just seemed so magical somehow.

Between films, and even during production of them, I think it’s vital for us filmmakers to expand our worlds.  Film is brilliant of course, but it’s certainly not the only medium there is. Working our directing muscles in an environment like a workshop or theatre can be an excellent way of developing characters and story and, quite frankly, motivation.  And by that, I don’t mean “so what is my motivation here dude?”  I mean why are we pursuing the story that we are pursuing.  What is the ‘why,’ what is the reason, what is the purpose of telling this story, because at my age there really has to be a purpose to everything.

We took these scenes and pulled them a part a bit.  We looked for the connections between the characters and what made them say what they were saying to each other.  We tried to give them life and, through them, the story suddenly became real and interesting and far more than what was on the page.  I could tell that some of these actors could be really, really wonderful, they just needed the opportunity and the support… like we all do.

I told them what I tell everyone I know who is creative, regardless of the medium.  I told them to go to the theatre, to the museum, to read books, to watch documentaries about wonderful actors, to watch the performances of wonderful actors and to really try and figure out what it is that these geniuses do that makes us so riveted. Inspiration can be found on every corner of our worlds…the little old lady in the grocery store, the bank teller, the next door neighbor, the news reader, the postman, your lawyer…they all have their stories and they are all incredible characters that you can draw from.

Letting your creative imagination play, alone and with others, is such an important part of the process, at least it is for me.  These opportunities that come along, whether it’s subbing for a class or workshop, directing a short film, a fringe play or even hosting a table read are golden opportunities to expand our repertoire and feed our hungry, creative souls. 

Never restrict yourselves to just one avenue of artistic expression.  In fact, look for ways to develop as an artist, because every pottery class you take, museum you wander around and wardrobe you declutter is a way to work some storyline out, or allow a character to grow or a relationship or a reason to emerge.

I can’t tell you how many times something has clicked in my head because of a seemingly random something or other that helped me solve a story problem I was working on or even begin a new project completely.

Not to mention that the more you put yourself out there, the more people you will meet, and the more opportunities you will have to write a story, or direct someone else’s, or find an amazing actor that will inspire you and help you make the film of your dreams. 

So I suppose, in summation, you never stop becoming the artist you wants to be.  Don’t just sit at home writing, don’t just stay within your safe tribal circle.  You absolutely must move beyond your secure spot and push yourselves into new arenas of creativity.

I would have never taught a workshop like this had it not been for my husband not being available.  And he would never had begun teaching himself had he not been asked to do so.  If these precious and infinitely valuable opportunities can occur when we are not in pursuit of them, just image what may come along when we are!

We must be more involved in our own lives, especially as filmmakers.  Making things happen must be the center of your creative universe, and lately, at least for me, the universe has been kind enough to drop these little gems at my door, where they all will take me is the most magical part of all…

Go and get your cameras out and make something magical happen…

Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros
Author: Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros

Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros is a British writer and filmmaker living In Los Angeles.