Polansky, director of films such as Rosemary's Baby and Chinatown, also stated that, "Directors are like generals, political dictators, aggressive people. You don't have to be aggressive in a malevolent way, in a hostile, disagreeable way. Actually, you have to be the opposite way. You have to be a real leader. That's to say that you have to let those who are doing their work do their work. You are a guide, and you're a 'tell-it-to,' and you're a prophet, and you're a boss, and you're a slave, and, in the end, it's your fault. And everyone in the film is always grateful if you tell them what to do." Obviously, to be a director, you have to take on several different roles depending on the particular situation at hand.
Entering the Film Business
Whether it is intentional or by accident, there is probably as many ways to enter the business of filmmaking as there are filmmakers. Some directors, such as Paul Mazursky
(Next Stop, Greenwich Village) and Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Manhattan Murder Mystery) started out as comedians and then actors. Eventually this led them both to screenwriting and finally directing.
Allan Dwan (The Iron Mask, The Three
Musketeers) planned to be an electrical engineer. Quentin Tarantino
(Pulp Fiction) worked in a video rental store. Louis Malle (French films, India) and Irvin Kershner
(The Hoodlum Priest, A Fine Madness) began by making documentaries.
There are those however, that knew from the beginning that directing was what they were going to do. Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show, What's Up Doc?) stated, "I always considered myself a director who was sort of making a living writing about pictures, not the other way around. In other words, I always wanted to direct films, even when I didn't know it."
Spielberg (E.T., Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List) grew up directing his siblings in the family room of his house, then after sneaking on to a lot at Universal Studios, he set up an office and there began his professional career.
Oliver Stone (Platoon, Wall Street) and Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Goodfellas) both attended film school on their way down the director's path.
The first basic element in creating a film is the script. The script is basically the guideline. Even if it is very precise, it is a guideline. Later, the period of the shooting will bring you a lot of surprises. Then, the editing is a completely new experience. Every picture starts out with an idea placed on paper. These ideas come from a multitude of places, including plays, poems, paintings, music, etc.
There are thousands of people currently writing scripts in hopes that theirs might attract the attention of a producer, studio or director. There are a lot of well-written scripts that for one reason or another will never make it to the screen. Martha Coolidge (Rambling Rose) has said "You're always looking for a metaphor that is extremely visual and dramatic so that it becomes a picture and not just words on the page."
Besides the fact that the budget of a film is the underlying determinant as to whether a picture is made or not, all films begin with a visualized concept. This concept represents an attitude towards characters, events, environments and objects.
Michael Winner (Scorpio, Deathwish) has quoted "What normally happens in this town (Hollywood) is that somebody gets a script and says, 'Let's give it to somebody else, which I really can't understand at all, and ten writers later and six arbitration's later…. Sometimes very good films are made that way. Some of the finest films ever have been through many writers in the most extraordinary manner." Case in point: One of the American Film Institutes 100 greatest movies of all time, MASH, was turned down by 12 different studios/directors before Robert Altman decided to take a chance and make the picture.
"One sets out to make a film because one likes the subject matter. I believe the script is never finished. I constantly work on the script, either with the writer, or, if the writer is not there, with another writer, or with the people that are working with me. I think the script is the blueprint and then it has to have a life of its own," John Schlesinger (The Manhattan Cowboy, The Marathon Man). Still there are other directors whom take a script word for word, action for action, never changing a thing.
Film Director Steven Spielberg sent his actors through boot camp and had them live in very primitive conditions before he began the filming of Saving Private
For many directors, the creation of an unforgettable character in a script is the key to winning them over. Many directors begin by considering how the character's journey through the story will ultimately affect the audience. For Ron Howard
(Backdraft, Apollo 13) this is the single most important consideration. Directors like Howard tend to seek out material that will confirm their own worldview. More often than not this involves an attempt to carefully select the kind of stories that will have a lasting and positive impact on the audience.
Once a director has finally settled on a project, the next step is to begin the development process. Normally research is a big part of this process, considering many scripts are based on other scripts, real-life events or adaptations from other previously written materials (such as books, plays, etc). Ron Howard spent many nights with firefighters and at firehouses learning what he could about their lifestyle before he began production of his film
Roland Joffee traveled to Calcutta several times over a period of 4 years to learn what
he could from the culture before filming City of Joy. Stephen Spielberg
sent his actors through boot camp and had them live in very primitive conditions before he began the filming of
Saving Private Ryan. The best research is that which yields a true vision of the arena in which the story takes place. Ideally this means going beyond the cultural clichés to create a dynamic and insightful script that will result in an honest movie.