WANT TO DIRECT? (Got 4 Minutes? Learn the Directing Basics)
by Dov S-S Simens on May 31, 2019
WANT TO BE SPIELBERG? GET THE BASICS. START WITH CORMAN!
Want to Direct? Then learn the Directing basics.
Making a Movie is like building a building. After the Blueprint (aka: script) build the floor & walls… how you design the floor & walls is what’s called “style” or “art” and I can’t teach “art” or “style” but pour the foundation, get the floor and then put up the walls.
Now, let’s talk film making and directing. After you have the Script (aka: Blueprint) for each scene start with the Master Shot (the floor) and then get the 2 Mediums (the walls).
I repeat… First get the Master. Then get the 2 OTS (Over-The-Shoulder) Mediums. In the old days (50s-60s) this was called the Master & 2-Pops and perfected by the genius Filmmaker/Producer Roger Corman who mastered making money in movie making with little-to-no-money.
Below is, as Mr Corman’s Line Producer in the 80s, teach a first-time director, who probably went to a 4-year film school, the basics of directing and shot selection in 5-minutes.
ROGER CORMAN’S 5-MINUTE DIRECTING COURSE
A long time ago (mid-80s) I worked for a man, Roger Corman, who was called “The King of the Bs”.
The “Bs” are those tacky, visual, low-budget genre movies that starred “nobody” but always had the word “Blood”, “Zombie”, “Slime”, “Nightmare”, “Fatal” or “Final” or “Massacre” somewhere in the title with a lot of blood, cleavage and car chases.. that you ridiculed as Mr Corman walked to-and-from banks with 2 bodyguards to protect his earnings.
(First off, Mr Corman’s movies were all called “Million Dollar Features”, but were made for $150,000-$200,000, and when done took them to the Cannes or AFM where he sold (actually “Licensed”) them to 35 nations (Spain, Israel, Germany, Australia, France, Turkey, Malaysia, etc.) or territories (Scandinavia, East Africa, Benelux, Middle East, etc) for $10,000-$75,000 each.
When you multiply 35 sales times $10K-$75K for a movie that he made for $150K-$200K, you discover he made a profit…. Then in North America he would release it D-T-V (Direct-to-Video) for additional profits and today to any of the On-Demand (Streaming) Platforms for additional profits… “not bad”
Plus Mr Corman is credited with launching 100s of directing careers from Scorsese, to Cameron, to Coppola, to Sayles, to Dante, to Demme to… who made these tacky movies… And he gave each one a “5-Minute Directing” course.
I should know because I was his Production Manager / Line Producer on several shoots and noticed that he always let the first-time director, that he knew knew little about the mechanics of low-budget film making / direct prepare for the first shot… but 5 minutes before first shot… he would always ask them a question, which they didn’t know how to answer and then he’d give them his “5-Minute Directing” course.
DO YOU KNOW HOW TO DIRECT?
Again, Mr Corman, once he hired a first-time director he’ld allow him/her to run around for 3-4 weeks doing pre-production then he’ld come to the set, about 10 minutes before first shot was scheduled, and ask the director, who has never directed a feature film before, “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 mumbling “Master. Yeah. 2-Pops? Huh?” and Mr Corman now knew the kid knew close to nothing about directing except theory, theory, theory…
Mr Corman, now 10-minutes before first scheduled shot, on Day-1 of the shoot, now knowing the director knew nothing about getting a “Master & 2-Pops” would explain it in 5-minutes leaving 5-minutes for a question…and this became the “Roger Corman 5-Minute Directing School”
It is simple.
THE ROGER CORMAN SCHOOL OF DIRECTING
(Get a Master. Get The 2-Pops)
1st GET A MASTER
As you approach each scene, in a low-budget movie, your priority is always… get it DONE!
Thus, start with a Master Shot which is (A) pull the camera back (B) put on a small number (18mm-30mm), almost wide angle, lens that (C) sees the entire set and all the actors and props that is on that page of script typing and say (D) “action”…wait till the scene is done and (E) say “Cut”.
You got the Master.
The scene is covered. This is not Rocket Science.
It might take you 2-3 Takes to get an excellent Master Shot, of the entire scene, but do not attempt any other shot until you first get a good Master.
1st Get a Master. Remember that… “1st Get a Master”.
2nd GET 2-POPS
Once, you have a good Master (do not proceed to a Medium or a Close-up until you first get a Master) you have a small sighe, because the scene is covered with a Master… then you the same scene again, from beginning to end a 2nd time, but this time with a Medium Shot frame using a 35mm-50mm Lens of the scene/actors and then, once gotten, reverse the camera 180-degrees with the same 35-50mm Lens from the beginning to end a 3rd time and you now have 2 Medium Shots, from reverse angles, with the same actors and same dialogue that is in the Master Shot.
(You now have the 2-Pops… or the 2 O-T-S (Over-The-Shoulder) Medium Shots
That is the Master & 2-Pops….
3rd GET CLOSE-UPS
Close-Ups can be shot with 100-150mm Lens showing just the actor’s face… These are “Action Close-Ups”
And, Close-Ups shot with 100-150mm Lens can also be quickies of extras or atmosphere people in the scene who are doing a physical gesture (no dialogue) that shows them reacting to the acting close-up… These are called “Cutaways” (need something to cut-away-to) and are also called “Reaction Shots”.
(Now turn on tv. Watch a one-hour drama and you will notice that each scene has a Master & 2-Pops, plus, a bunch of close-ups, and you will go “Oh, OK, I got it”.
4th GET AN ESTABLISHING SHOT
This is merely a 5-10 second wide-angle shot that shows the Building, the Town, the Street, the Valley, etc. where the entire scene, covered with a Master, 2 Mediums & numerous Close-ups is about to take place.
5th SHOT SELECTION
Hello Directors… Do not reinvent the wheel, especially when you have little money to afford little time to direct a scene and make your mind think in this order to maximize your coverage… Thus…
1st: Get a Master.
2nd: Get the Mediums (2 Reverse Angle Over-The-Shoulder)
3rd: Get the Close-Ups (Action & Re-Action)
4th: Get an Establishing Shot before you leave the area.
That’s it… “it ain’t Rocket Science”.
When building a house… first get the Floor, then the Walls, then the Roof and some Windows & Doors.
When directing a movie… first get a Master, the get the Mediums, the Close-ups… and don’t forget an Establishing Shot.
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