In our latest Word of Mouth we talk to Writer/Director, David Skynner, about his career to date, including BAFTA wins, interviewing Gary Numan, and starting out on Aliens.
What was your first job in TV?
My first job in TV was also my first as a director, on The Bill for Thames TV, but by then I had already been working in the industry for ten years, partly in features and also making corporate films.
My first proper production job was after I left The London Film School, when on graduating, the school found me a two-week attachment to the AD dept. on James Cameron’s Aliens. I got on so well with them I ended up staying three months and moved on to the creature shop for another two months, when Stan Winston saw a painting I’d done for a film school production. It was a very exciting film to work on, very very long hours though as I’d be in at 6am to open the dressing rooms and as the film slipped behind schedule and the days got longer, I often wouldn’t leave until 11pm.
What is a Film Director?
Film Directors have creative autonomy over a production. The Director is the most important person in the production team. Even with the best actors and actresses, and most highly trained crew members, the entire production can fall apart if the Director does not play their part. In this article, we will be discussing the key responsibilities of the Director, their key skills, and how you can become one.
No matter what they achieve in their career, every director was once a runner, a film student or a production assistant… So they are often keen on giving advice to young filmmakers. Here are our top picks:
Wes Anderson – Always start with your characters
During the 10th Rome Film Fest in 2015, the director from Houston, Texas, met the audience and, in a Q&A session, he shared several directorial tips like this one:
“For me a movie, the project usually begins almost always with a character or a group of characters. Usually there’s a sort of world… that’s tied in. But, for instance, the last film that I did, The Grand Budapest Hotel, there was a person we were modelling this role, this character who Ralph Fiennes plays in the film. There’s a real inspiration for him, and he was someone my co-writer Hugo Guinness [and I] were close to. In that case, if we put a style to it, it could be a literary style because of the way he talks. We wanted to write the way he talks to create a character in that way. But in that case it’s really the character that comes first.”
In this edition of Word of Mouth we talk to Director and Producer/Director, David Whitney, about his career to date – working around the world on TV, film and branded content projects.
How did you get your big break, and what was your first job?
My first job in the industry was working as an Assistant Grip on a low budget feature film in the late 90s. I was still a teenager and it was all very new to me, in fact I thought it was crazy – lots of grown ups shouting at each other, people crying on set, tantrums, numerous affairs… but it was great fun and didn’t put me off.
I knew I didn’t want to work on the technical side of things, so I took a job working as a Production Assistant at a well-known film company. One thing led to another and in my early twenties I got the opportunity to direct some corporate jobs, then TV commercials.
In 2005 I directed a short film, which led to my nomination for BBC New Filmmaker of the year, and from that I began directing TV drama, as well as more ads and branded content. After festival success for my short film, George’s Day (starring actor Michael Byrne), I raised the finance for my debut feature, which was released around the world and picked up by Netflix. This has led to countless other opportunities shooting all over the world. It’s been a fascinating ride!
What is a Third Assistant Director?
The role of 3rd Assistant Director is one of the best ways to start your directing career. As a 3rd AD, you can be involved in a wide range of tasks but the main responsibility is to ensure that the first and second Assistant Directors are supported in every capacity. The most common duty of the 3rd AD is to coordinate the movements and direction of extras and maintain a clear channel of communication between cast and crew.
This week, we chat to veteran DOP and Director, Joe Dyer, on working with music superstars and BAFTA nominated TV shows.
How did your career start?
I started at the BBC and Granada in the north of England working as a freelance camera assistant filling in for staff crews who were unavailable. I assisted cameramen to do interviews, documentaries, and anything we could for the TV companies. I often worked on shooting football matches for news bulletins – sensing when you thought there may be a goal, running the camera with the hope that you were right! The film was then rushed on a bike to the labs and put through video transfer to go on the news still wet! The quality was embarrassing!
You’ve worked with a lot of high profile talent including Annie Lennox, Kylie Minogue and Bryan Adams – how do you work with them effectively, so they can take direction from you?
With directing Annie Lennox, the secret I believe, was always that we were able to get inside each other’s heads and see that we understood the same sensibilities. Annie has very strong views and visual ideas and I found my role was to make these dreams a reality. With artists like Kylie Minogue and Bryan Adams, when working with them as a DOP it was more trying to understand the needs of the director (Kevin Godley) in the case of Bryan Adams and feel the hugeness of the idea and be very, very brave! Art is my background and those times were about art not technology.
This week, we catch up with 2012 BAFTA Television Craft Awards winner, Hugo Blick, as he discusses past success, Marion & Geoff, how he got his break starring in Batman, and winning that all important BAFTA for Director of BBC 2’s The Shadow Line, proudly sponsored by ProductionBase.
You’re career began as an actor and you famously starred in Tim Burton’s Batman, playing the young Jack Napier, who killed Bruce Wayne’s parents and later became the Joker. How did you’re career as an actor aid you in becoming a successful director?
Marshalling a film crew is quite a military sort of thing but acting in front of a camera and all those people is really quite delicate. If you haven’t experienced that exposure it’s easy to not recognise just how vulnerable an actor can feel.
Was it an easy transition to make, did people take you seriously?
A loaded question there! First thing, I take actors very seriously! But you’re right to the degree that acting and directing are very separate talents and one doesn’t necessitate ability in the other – although Clint Eastward appears to have made a pretty good fist of it!