A quick comment on Directors

I have heard people say that making a film is like being in a battle. I think combat veterans might disagree just a little bit. However, if you like metaphors, one might be able find a few comparing the two vocations. You have a battle plan: the script, an army: the crew and a willingness to complete the mission in a glorious way. You also have a Commanding General and that is the director. Commanding General?

The director as Commanding General is becoming a thing of the past.

I have been lucky to have worked with five directors who produced the project, cast who they wanted, had final cut and were left alone throughout the entire process. Three of them also wrote the screenplays. Wolfgang Petersen, Ron Shelton, Peter Weir, Frank Darabont and Roland Emmerich. These men are big D directors and have power, are confident, smart, charming and are natural leaders. What they want they get. No questions asked. The box office will prove them right… or wrong. What other industry on the planet will give an artistic group up to 200 million dollars to produce a visual product for fickle audiences around the world. Well, you might feel a little more secure in your investment if you have one of these guys at the helm. But even they are not immune to the fate of going to “Director Jail” if one of their movies bomb. Just ask Ron Shelton or Peter Weir. I think some studio execs, in spite of the financial debacle, secretly like when one of these icons goes down. The reason to me is that they despise artists that they can’t push around. That simple. Instead, they promote inexperienced, immature “directors” that they have complete control over and therefore, are free to meddle with the production from the day the movie gets green lit - through the opening weekend. I’ve seen it and cringe when a director is humiliated in front of the crew by one of these “producers”. It can, and usually does get it ugly because the director will begin to take it out on someone else and that’s usually the DP. I should know, I got fired when I got caught in the middle of one of these pointless pissing matches. To this day, I will not shoot for a first time “director”.

I miss the days when the director was the boss and were able to make “their” movie. In my opinion, any movie that is made in committee or by consensus will end up bearing little resemblance to the original script.

And that’s why the best movies ever made were directed by Commanding Generals.

ps: There are still a few directors out there who remain in control of their projects. By being persistent, defiant and maintaining an almost superhuman commitment to his creative vision, Rupert Wyatt succeeded with HIS “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”.  What a joy to be able to shoot for him!

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