WANT TO DIRECT? Directing is Easy! (Learn the Secret! Master & 2 Medium Shots)
by Dov S-S Simens on March 11, 2018
THE DIRECTING SECRET
“Want to direct?” It’s really not that tough…. Just take it one-step-at-a-time similar to building a house.
With a house you have the blueprint. With a film you have the script.
Now, after you have the blueprint then first get your Foundation. Then get your walls. Then get a roof. Then plumb & wire. Then put in the windows and doors. Building houses ain’t rocket science… it’s one-step-at-a-time.
Now, back to “Want to Direct?”
(“Spielberg, the directing master, started his career with “Eyes” a night gallery episode, with 5 actors in two rooms where he learned to get a Master, Medium, Closeup, Cutaway & Establishing shot for each scene.”)
Once you have the script and cast it. Now, shoot it…
First get a Master Shot. Then get a Medium Shot.Then get a second, reverse angle, Medium Shot. Then get your Closeups. And, before leaving the location… get an Establishing Shot.
Voilla! Directing ain’t rocket science.
Of course there is more to building houses or directing films but first you must absolutely know the basics. And this post will give you the Directing basics, which is nick-named “Master & 2-Pops”.
- When I first started this blog 5 years ago I wrote the secret to directing, while viewing one of my graduates directing his first-film as I taught from watching Mr Corman teach, and the blog was such a big hit, but there were so few readers then, that I have opted to re-post again, now that readership is 1,000 fold.
- Again, the key to Directing, as taught at traditional 4-year film ($200,000) programs, is the importance of (A) getting the right script, (B) casting the best actors, (C) hiring the best crew, (D) getting the best edit, yadda yadda yadda.
- However, every first-timer knows, in one way or another, the above ABCD and is still confused, once on the set trying to decide “what the heck to do with the camera? Which lens to use? Where to put the camera? Which shot to start with…Master? Medium? Close-up? Cutaway? Establishing?” And, the answer is very simple…. Let me explain
DIRECTING SECRET: GET A MASTER & 2-POPS
A long time ago (27-30 years) I worked for a man, Roger Corman, sometimes called “The King of the Bs”, the Bs are those visual oriented (horror, car chase, T&A flix) low-budget genre movies, as a part-time Production Manager (aka: PM) in hopes of learning my craft and someday being called a Line Producer.
Mr Corman never hired a PM (production manager) full-time for he only needed one, for 3-4 weeks, once a shoot was actually scheduled. The features, however, that he allowed me to PM (paid $800-$1,000/week) I noticed that he let the first-time director, fresh out of a $200,000 film school, that he knew knew a lot about the theory but very-little about the true-true mechanics of directing run around implementing theory.
(“Roger Corman, producer and distributor over 700 profitable feature films, tells every first-time director he hires, like Scorsese, Coppola or Howard, “First get a Master & 2-Pops”)
Mr Corman, would allow this first-time director, paid $1,000-$1,500/week, to run around for 3-4 weeks doing pre-production (scouting, casting, crewing, storyboarding, etc.) but then he would come to the set, after prep, about 15-minutes before the first shot on the first day of the shoot is scheduled and ask the director, who has never directed a feature film, “Do you know how to get a Master & 2-Pops”?
The young director would usually look at Mr Corman with the gaze of a dear caught in headlights and Mr Corman instantly knew that the kid,knew close to nothing about directing except theory, theory, theory…
Mr Corman would now take 10-minutes before first scheduled shot of the shoot, knowing the director knew nothing about getting a “Master & 2-Pops” would explain how to do it.
It is simple and now allow me to give you Mr Corman’s “10-Minute Directing Crash Course”.
MASTER & 2-POPS: As you approach each scene your first priority is always, I repeat, always, get it DONE! Get it shot. Get it covered. Don’t start with the small shots. Don’t do the closeups first. Priority is “Get it done” and “get it don… right away”. Get what is written in the script covered… with one shot… a Master Shot.
Thus, start with a Master Shot, the toughest shot to get for it is the longest with the most tracking, the most movement and the most focus pulling.
Thus, for a Master Shot (A) pull the camera back (B) put on a small number, lens like a 18mm, 20mm, or 30mm, that is almost wide-angle, that (C) sees the entire set, that sees all the information that is typed on the script and say (D) “action”… Now, move the camera, pull the focus, keep the composition. wait till the scene is done and (E) say “Cut”.
If, for whatever reason there is a problem (actor stumbles on dialogue, dog barks in rear, actor walks out of camera frame, prop falls down, 1st AC pulls focus poorly, Camera Operator gets poor composition, etc.) then do the Master Shot again and, if necessary, again until you have a perfect Master Shot.
Now, once you have a good Master, you can move on to Medium Shots, Closeups and Cutaways Shots… but first get a good Master.
Answer: For once you have a good Master the scene is shot and in-the-can.
This is not rocket science.
FYI: I beg you to view numerous low-budget/micro-budget/no-budget first-time feature films (“Saw”, “Blair Witch”, “Clerks”, Paranormal Activity”, “Once”, “Brothers McMullen”, etc.) and you will see that 80-90% of the shots you are viewing are only Master Shots very few medium shots, very few closeups and little-to-no cutaways.
First “Get a Master”.
(“There is more to directing than just a Master & 2-Pops, but this is the foundation, the rest, to include budgeting, scheduling, scouting, casting, rehearsing and editing are all covered in my Live, DVD or Streaming film schools.”)
Once, you have a good Master you have a small sighe of relief, for the the scene (page, partial-page or pages) is covered.
The scene is shot. It ain’t art but it is done. Now, with a little more time let’s make the Master Shot better by getting a couple of Medium Shots to inter-cut.
Thus shoot the same Master Scene, from beginning to end, a 2nd time, but this time with a 35mm or 50mm lens and get a Medium, from one direction and then, with the same lens, do a 180 and shoot the scene again, from beginning to end, a 3rd time, with the opposite direction Medium Shot.
You now have the “2-Pops”.
You first get the “Master”.
You then get the “2-Pops”.
That is the Master & 2-Pops…. Sometimes it is called the Master and 2 Over-The-Shoulder (OTS) Mediums.
Now turn on tv. Watch a one-hour drama and you will notice every scene has a Master & 2-Pops, plus, of course a bunch of close-ups, and you will go “OK, I got it”.
Of course there is more, much more, but first… get a “Master & 2-Pops”.
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