Jul 13, 2010

Talking with Directors


Love your blog! I'm still a newbie in the continuity field. What are some of your favorite phrases to ask a director (so as not to make him feel defensive) on continuity errors, coverage, shot lists, preferred takes, etc...

Thanks so much! Keep scripting!

This is a brilliant question! And one that deserves some discussion! Since we are a department of ONE and rarely get to model our "style" after another...I hope other scripty's give their take on this question too!

I have to admit I really try NOT to talk to directors. I prefer to talk to every other department. For example if I see a wardrobe issue..I'll discuss it with wardrobe. A hair issue...I'll talk to hair...shot list, I'll talk to the AD and so on...

So much so that if I actually bring something up to the director he/she will be trained early on that when I speak it's important. And so far in my career this strategy has worked very well.

As far as what to say when I hit that "I have to discuss this with the director" I tend to speak softly and typically start with "Excuse me, but Actor A & B have been changing up their actions each take on the master, is there one take we should match for coverage?" This typically and hopefully hits the director and he/she realizes that he/she must remind the actors to match their actions or it's going to be a cutting nightmare in post. Or the director likes the mismatched action and is waiting to see which one they will ultimately match to for coverage. Or I'll get the answer many scriptys hear all the time "It doesn't matter". (remember to roll your eyes in your mind on that one!)

Now, sometimes, I work with directors that like to talk. They like to shoot the breeze in between takes, or challenge me to see who can put a war head candy in their mouth and not make a face. Sometimes childish, sometimes fun, but I guess I always take the directors lead on conversations. I have heard of many scripty's getting fired because they were asking the directors too many questions and or fighting over every potential continuity concern that they became just a pain in the butt.

And I would tend to believe that not being a pain in the butt might get you more work!

Any other scriptys care to comment on how you work with directors?


Maggie ~:) said...

I've only worked on very small No budget sets, so generally, I always talk to the Director. Or the 1st AD, if we have one. And the way you described making the suggestion to the Director is pretty much exactly how I do it. If I get the "it doesn't matter" answer, I just say "ok, just wanted to check." Then I go about my business. Arguing about it won't do any good. But I do like to fantasize that in the editing process someone will spontaneously yell, "Dammit! I should have listened!!!" Hahaha.

Scripty said...

Thanks Maggie! And I agree I fantasize about the same thing!

Script Witch said...

i talk to my directors all the time. i almost always approach my topic in a humorous way.

i usually refer to the director as 'boss' when i address him/her (a habit i got into on a show that shot 3 day episodes. and often pre-shot or had 2nd Unit or clean up shooting happening all at once. i started calling the directors 'boss' because frankly there were so many directors on set at once & i couldn't always remember there names at the moment i was trying to talk to them.) the term boss seems to put them at ease. weird right?

additionally i use the royal 'we' a lot. 'do we need a single of Jim on the couch, (even though he doesn't have a line) for something to cut to?'

and i agree with the 'Goddess', i go to the departments when i have a question or concern. i try never to call anyone out if there's been a mistake. if it's still a problem after you've tried to solve it 'behind the scenes' then I might get the AD's involved.

and finally, if you've tried to address something & the director doesn't want to hear or deal with it, let it go. make sure you make write about it in your notes, in as gentle a way as possible, if you want to work with that director again. but C.Y.A., cover your ass. you want to make sure that the problem was addressed. by you, and a different decision was made. you don't necessarily have to say it was against your better judgment. that's implied in the fact you made mention of it in your notes.

just my 2 cents.

Scripty said...

Thanks for your 2 cents Script Witch (love the name!)

I like your style, humor is a great skill to have on set. I'm positive it diffuses any questions/concerns you raise.

Ha! I also use the royal "we"! And yes, I also C.Y.A in my notes. A great reminder for the newbies out there!

sfscripty said...

I always remind myself to cover my ass "in writing" or second best, with the producer when there is something major. It seems crossing the line is no longer always in that category...
A sense of humor makes everyone comfortable.

Scripty said...


Thanks for the comment! I agree screen direction is so "we'll shoot doc style" these days. But before we go too far down that road I make sure that's the style they're going for! And of course CYA!

brittanydarby said...

I've had experience scripting on small, low to no budget sets and I try to gauge how much the director likes conversation before we start shooting. One director I worked with was very conscious of continuity so he asked me if I would jump in any time I had a concern. It wasn't often and I was sure to not overdo my comments, but it was nice to work with him. The other director used a lot of "it doesn't matter" comments, so I don't think she had a very fun time in post. She wasn't big on conversation either.

Anonymous said...

I've just come off a feature where the director's watch-phrase was "Continuity is for pussies!" You can imagine the kinds of conversations that happened on that set.

Him: That guy (pointing at one of the lead cast) doesn't need his shirt on. Can we take his shirt off?
Me: We've seen him with his shirt on the master, it's going to look weird when we cut to his coverage.
Him: If you don't mind, I'd like to show the sense of time passing here, and I want him to have his shirt off in this shot.
Me: If you don't mind, I'd like to maintain some semblance of costume continuity in this film so that you're not cursing my name when you sit with your editor.
Him: Okay, I don't care, do what you want.
Me: I'd like him to leave his shirt on, please.
Him: (to wardrobe) Take that guy's shirt off, I don't want to see him with a shirt on.
Me: (head explodes)

So I wrote notes in my notes with a red pen - CYA, yes? That film is coming out in the spring and I can honestly say that any continuity errors that made it to the screen are totally not my fault.

PS. I know this doesn't really answer the question of how to talk to directors but I needed to rant to people who would understand... I apologise.

Script Goddess, I use the same approach - I take it up with the departments concerned. I find it works so much better. Sometimes departments will say the director wanted it that way, at which point I'll speak to the director about his/ her decision if it's going to become a problem.

For small talk, I take my cue from the director. Usually I just don't like to bother them while they're working because they're thinking about lots of different things. But if they initiate conversation, there's nothing wrong with responding with witty/ sarcastic/ funny comments. A lot of the time it makes you memorable if you can make them laugh, which means they'll want to work with you again. And yay for more work!

Scripty said...

Thanks for the comment Brittany!

Also: Anony..you will totally appreciate the Script Supervisor vs.Director I just posted!