Welcome to our archive of the "Ask a Filmmaker," a column that was devoted to your questions and concerns about the filmmaking process. Our guest columnists were screenwriter John August (Go, Charlie's Angels), director Penelope Spheeris (The Decline of Western Civilization, Wayne's World) and cinematographer Oliver Stapleton (My Beautiful Laundrette, The Cider House Rules, The Shipping News).
|Ask a Director|
|by Penelope Spheeris|
If one has primarily worked and trained in theatre as a director, how do you suggest making the leap to film and also getting backers/actors/etc. to support you in said venture? What advice would you give to someone who has worked in film in other capacities and would like to take their directing skills behind the camera?
Directing theatre is an excellent background for film directing. Although film school students generally get good training on the technical aspects of filmmaking and thorough film history background, often the experience of working with actors is not all that comprehensive. So, consider yourself fortunate in that you have had that training.
Directing movies is however, quite different than directing stage plays. Needless to say, you still have to bring out the emotion through the work of the actors, but the visual interpretation and the technicalities of the story telling are as different as night and day. Obviously, "making the leap to film" will entail learning those technical aspects that are required for the job of film director which can be achieved at a qualified film school. So many young filmmakers try to jump into the river without knowing how to swim and I certainly don't recommend it. This job is a thousand times more complicated than it looks. As far as getting `backers and actors' goes, that's what we are all trying to do and the competition is through the roof. And having "worked in film in other capacities" is certainly good training, but being a director is sort of like what Woody Allen said about being funny: "Either you are or you are not." Each of us owes it to ourselves to ask if we are truly directors. It's not as easy or fun as it looks to be honest with you. With a stage play, when the curtain closes, you can go home. On a movie, when the A.D. calls `a wrap', the film director's work has just begun.
Penelope Spheeris made her feature film debut with The Decline of Western Civilization, an energetic documentary about the L.A. punk scene in the early 1980's. She has since directed a number of diverse projects, including Wayne's World , Suburbia , and The Boys Next Door , as well as completing two more films in the Decline series (The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years in 1988 and The Decline of Western Civilization Part III in 1998). We Sold Our Souls for Rock 'n' Roll, debuted at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. In 2004, she produced and directed The Kid and I, based on a true story about a young man with cerebral palsy, who wants to be an actor. Learn more about her work at her official website.
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