How to Direct a Movie

Well, I'm not sure if I'm the right person to write this, because though I know a lot about the moviemaking techniques, the directing part is where I get a little lost. But, seeing as no one has posted yet...


Well, first off you need a plot, or a story or  at least some kind of idea behind your movie, otherwise it probably wouldn't be called "directing a movie" but rather "randoming a movie," which has it's own interesting results.

Figure out where your movie will be shot! whether it's the damp darkness of your basement, the amazon rainforest, or somewhere in a mall. Take note that you should plan ahead how you will use each filming location, and if you have a certain location that comes up many times in the movie, it might be quicker to shoot all those scenes together, even if they won't play together in the movie. And it's usually best to ask for permission when filming at locations or filming people... Especially if your movie might end up on the internet.

Then you need to figure out who or what you are going to direct, whether it's mushrooms doing their thing, filming an empire of ants marching away or something with people talking... What ever you choose, you'll need to make sure that it's the right conditions for mushroom growth, that the ants aren't napping, or that your actors have enough free time to participate in your production!

Needless to say, by now you should already have all the hardware and or software to make the movie... If not, there's always the option of drawing cartoons... Or writing stories on Protagonize, which, let's admit, is probably the next best thing to making a great movie!

After you've figured out, what, where, with whom, and how (though not necessarily in that order), and actually have all those things... Then, I think you're ready to make your movie... Though I fear I might have forgotten to add something very important. What exactly, I can't imagine, but hey, that kind of thing probably happens all the time when making a movie, like an actor forgetting his or her lines, or forgetting to bring everyone's lunch, or forgetting that you needed 5 actors but that you only got 4. That's why it's good idea to remember to take notes of everything lest you forget about them, for example, there's a reasonable probability that you will forget all about keeping notes once you finish reading this How To, so I suggest you go fetch a notepad right now, and scribble down onto the pad "Must carry a notepad everywhere." Otherwise you might forget to bring your notepad.

Shoot! You need people beside actors to make a movie! To shoot your movie you'll need your film crew, like cameraman, the mike dude, makeup artist, clothing diva, lighting gal, stunts coordinator, etc... Fortunately, most people are multitalented, so the director can easily be cameraman or cameralady, as well as stunt coordinator (who's movie is this anyways, right?), and since most movies don't show all the actors in the same shot, actors can double as mike holder person (I think the scientific name is Gaffer, but I'm not sure), and makeup artists. The director can also do the lighting if they wish... In truth the director can do just about everything!

However! The director must take into account, that some people in his or her bunch of actors/crew might be better at certain skills then the director might be! So, even though the director wants to control everything, the results might turn better if the camera is held be someone with very steady hands, or the lighting done by a photography wizard, or the stunts coordinated by a martial artist, or the makeup done by a Picasso imitator... If that's your type of thing. So if you have one of those kinds of people hanging around, you might want to get them involved in the making process.

Remember that like it says above, some people might be better at some things then you... People will also give you their opinion about how things should go, or how things should be said differently, etc... And there's a strong chance they might be right. But remember that this is still your Movie! YOU'RE THE BOSS/DIRECTOR, so don't let others take the lead.*

(*)Unless you actually want to give them the lead cause you give up or something and that it's the only chance the movie might ever get done and that the person you're giving the lead to is actually a duo by Peter Jackson and James Cameron.

However, keep in mind that there's a good chance you won't be paying your friends or grandma or Rufus the Action Spy Dog, so you still want to treat all the people you'll work with, with respect and understanding, and in a way that will encourage them to stay in the movie. One way is not having overly long hours unless everyone is enjoying themselves. Being considerate of people's work and study and bed times. Never YELL! unless a jet engine is roaring nearby, or Rufus if is biting your leg off. Also, make sure refreshments are aplenty; people get cranky when they are dehydrated or hungry. Its also better to have nutritious foods and snacks and cool water, instead of junkfood and colas, otherwise people will just want to sit around and scarf! 

Be sure to thank everyone and show appreciation for them being there for you and participating in your project... And yes, even if you've decided to pay them.

Tips I hope are true or think are useful:

If your actor's aren't too sure how to act out a scene, try acting out the scene yourself as example for them. It will help them understand what you want, and you will get a sense of what might be challenging them... It'll also add a bit more fun in the whole thing.

Try to be clear in how you explain things to them, and try to see things from their point of view when they have trouble understanding something.

Take as much footage (video) as you can, it's better to cut through what you don't need than having too little.

Read all you can on "Indie Movie making", (and yes, even though this How To is gigantically huge, there's still some good things at your local library, Google and Youtube, on the subject.)

Play around with your camera and software a lot before making a movie, better do most of your learning beforehand, it'll make it that much easier when making the movie.

Technical tips:

The secret to the "Film Look" is 24 images per second, normal video plays at 30 images per second, but if you can use software to convert your video, or capture the feed to the computer at 24 images per second, you will have made a big step to get that movie feel and look. Second is deinterlacing, if you see a bunch of horizontal jigsaw lines in your video when there's movement, you need to deinterlace the video. This can be done with software to video files or when you use a video capture feed to the computer. Third is color and contrast, traditional film used to have a bit of a warm color, that is to say a very slight yellowish tinge. Adding higher contrast will also help to get the film look, making the darks dark and lights light, but making sure there's not too much of one or the other, unless that's what you're looking for. And fourth, in traditional movies, there's a soft look to things and objects, so I find adding a layer or two of plastic food wrap or some other clear plastic films just in front of the camera lens adds a nice feel. Fifth, try to get some lighting you can control, usually there's the main light source, then a little bit of light coming form the side onto the subject/actor and finally some light to light the background. Outside you can use white colored cardboard to reflect a little lighting on the unlit side of the subject. Sixth try to prevent the camera from shaking too much, one way is mounting the camera on a folded tripod and holding the tripod. The tripod will act as balancing weight and will smooth the movements out. Seventh experiment filming with some zoom, even if you have to stand farther away, as it might help give a movie look. Eighth, it's best not to change zoom while shooting, otherwise it probably won't look good. Ninth, though this has nothing to do with look, sound has much to do with the feel and if you can get some good quality sound recorded from a stand alone microphone near the actors, this will help a lot because you won't get as much environmental noises. If you can't get some kind of microphone up close and personal to the actors, it's also possible to block annoying sounds by standing or putting something in the way of the sound source. 10th, and last be not least, have fun!

Here's a list of free downloadable video editing programs I've found which I find interesting:

By the way, it's best not to use transitions too often unless you're going for the Star Wars style.

Windows Movie Maker (good special effects), Video Spin(good effects and sound editing,), Video Pad (very good sound editing and options, and might be able to change 30ips to 24ips, and deinterlace), Windows Encoder 9 (coverts live feed or video files to 24ips and can deinterlace, it can also resize video).

If you have a windows PC, you probably have Windows Movie Maker and Windows Encoder 9, if not they can be downloaded for free online.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask!


The End

65 comments about this story Feed