I tried to direct a short film––please help me...

HeySiriHeySiri Website User Posts: 382 Just Starting Out

You know, I knew arranging six teenagers to act in a film would be tough. In fact, I found trying to control six teenagers more difficult that climbing Half Dome. Yes, directing teenagers is worse than climbing a mountain, that's a fact. Anyways, I felt really prepared, but then I was on set, in the midst of production, and everything just seemed to fell apart. I felt like all my stuff was neatly organized but like, on set I had to scramble to look for everything. I'm directing, filming, producing, operating the camera and most of the sound, and so I have a lot on my plate during a production day. What are some tips to direct people, especially teenagers, and to keep people focused. Also, to feel totally prepared during filming. Obviously there's some nervousness that will always be there the first time (and likely most times) but this is like, extreme chaos. How can I be better prepared for a shooting day.

Note: I adamantly thought I didn't need a shot list, but right now I'm writing one up for my entire film. Shot lists and storyboards are important, I have learned that the hard way.


  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,219 Ambassador

    You learned the biggest thing - shot lists and storyboards (aka, "the battle plan.")

    To expand on that, the shot list is then used to set up a shot order. Especially for anything involving lights, tripods, or camera rigs, you want to minimize moving gear....so consider skipping around scenes to shoot everything from camera setup A before moving to setup B. 

    Actor wrangling is always difficult. I'll put more thought into it, but, even with adult, professional actors, well... They get bored, unfocused and wander. I have stories... "....shut the EFF up and do what I tell you and I'll get you out of here in 45 minutes. [Screw] around and I'll yell at you more and I don't know how long we'll be!" They shut up  stayed focused and I finished the tech Q to Q in 35 min.

    Anyways, one key to actor wrangling is to plan ahead to move quickly on set. Less down time means less time to get unfocused. Another thing is you're wearing a lot of hats. What tech work can you stick on your actors? The tech might be interesting to them, and, if you get help on the tech stuff, you can move faster. An actor helping with tech has less time to get bored.

    Otherwise  I'm dealing with a severe family emergency, so I'm not going to find the videos myself, but check the Film Riot channel. Ryan's done episodes on actor wrangling. 

  • HeySiriHeySiri Website User Posts: 382 Just Starting Out

    @Triem23 severe family emergency? Oh no, what happened?

    But thank you for the advice, I will follow it!

    I hope everything is alright!

  • triforcefxtriforcefx United StatesModerator, Website User Posts: 1,059 Moderator

    Welcome to filmmaking! 

    Seriously though, we've all been there. It sucks, but it makes for the best learning experiences. As they often say on Film Riot, (and I can attest to it) filming RARELY goes exactly as planned.

    About actors... I remember one film where it seemed like my actors were all on laughing gas. For whatever reason, the filming was just so funny to them and we took (what felt like) hours of unusable footage trying to do a scene that was supposed to be less than a minute. Once the camera had run out of batteries and storage, there was nothing left to do but call it and have everyone go home for the day.

    Tbh, I never finished production on that film (though I'd like to go back to it eventually), however I learned a few things from it... 1. Don't be afraid to call it a day (or take a break). Obviously, sometimes there's only so much time, but especially on a production like yours, you're usually safe to take a break from filming for a bit and come back to things later. 2. Have distractions for actors while they're not being used or taking a break. Have some snacks, let them do a part of the production like Triem suggested. 3. Let them know the vision. Get them excited for it. Help them get into character and let them express themselves.


  • Jarrahv1Jarrahv1 Website User Posts: 98

    here's something you can do which a lot of people will tell you don't do it.

    engage them.  ask how they felt about a shot or any ideas (you may actually find one) the reason you don't want to do it is because it makes you look un prepared.  it can also create more hassles than it's worth.  basically it's to keep them distracted.  always have a solid idea of what you want.
    when you're out there to save time remember film is a blend of being prepared and waiting for the "well that didn't go as planned thing"
    don't stick to an idea like that's the be all end all.  people who work like this are a real pain in the arse.
    you have an idea...  you scratch out that idea...  you know you need x amount of shots for the sequence to work...

    you want an establishing shot... you want some edit variations...  you want the actors to say what you wrote (in this case) you'd like it natural...  but the actor can't say it that way... it doesn't work... fine...
    "give me an idea on how you'd say it"  ROLL.

    how about if we do this (which gets basically the same thing) and then they do *what ever*?

    sure... ROLL.

    ok looks good got what we need.  let's grab some close ups and pick up shots

    stick to how you make a film more than the "vision"  I have an idea... here's what i'm thinking, it'll look something like this...  and now let's let the rest fall into place

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