The “Play Right” Nature of Directing
Now that I’ve gotten old enough that I no longer want to ask people to participate in my indie productions simply for “exposure” or “as a favor,” my wife Eliza requested one thing: “Do as many projects as you like, just please don’t drain our personal savings to make them.” Fair enough.
At least several times a year over the making of the last few PoPS episodes, I’ve gotten really excited about the prospect of making a short film and doing all the things that I like in movies that I can’t do with PoPS. All the gore, dark ambiguous tone, and anamorphic-style framing I want. Then I write a project, I get all excited about it, I discuss it with people, start looking for locations, start looking for wardrobe, and think about scheduling it…
Then I realize how behind I am on getting the latest PoPS episode done and I abandon the short, saying something along the lines of—Maybe after the next episode or There’ll be time for shorts once PoPS is done.
A couple months ago, an idea for another short grabbed my attention. Once again, I wrote it, got excited about it, started talking to people about it, and got more and more excited about it the more we talked. This time, I took a step to better motivate me to shoot the thing and actually get it done. I kept the locations few and achievable; I made it shoot’able in a single weekend; and I actually took on a freelance gig to get the money I need to hire solid gore creators, pay actors, and rent a super slow-mo camera.
This whole post has been leading up to a realization I had while shooting that freelance gig. One part of directing that I seem to really like is that it harkens back to my desire as a kid to have people play the way that I want them to play.
I was one of those kids that always wanted to dictate the storylines of the games we played. If we were playing some kind of camp game or adventure game, whatever it was, running around outside pretending to be different kinds of grown-ups, I tried to control the way the story unfolded. If someone wanted to take the game in a different direction, I’d get frustrated and try to keep them on target for the story we were already in the process of exploring. If the character they were being started acting in a way that didn’t make sense for the story that I wanted to tell, I’d try to reign them back in and make them play right.
I was working on this freelance gig just a couple nights ago—a kind of promotional music video—and the musician and his friends gathered up a crowd of people for an evening beach fire-pit scene. When they asked me how many people I wanted, I jokingly said, “Remember the opening scene of Jaws? What, thirty, forty people, right?” Then I said I was joking, and we all chuckled the chuckle of a group of people who had all just had a long, tiring day of shooting.
Then, a couple days later, when we got to the beach scene, I got out of my car to hear the words, “We got your Jaws numbers, man.” By the time everyone assembled, we had probably around 25 people. They all hung out, having a good time doing the marshmallow roasting, guitar playing, beach thing and I ran around shooting them and occasionally issuing little directions. For the rest of the night a large group of people immediately responded and adapted to my cues. It lit up that little kid “play right” pilot light that apparently still rests right behind my heart. I didn’t even realize it was still a thing. But I guess it is. Everyone that came to the beach scene did an amazing job and the footage that we got is so great.
I’m almost done with the freelance video now and I’ll be able to buckle down on finishing episode 9 of PoPS, but with the money in place to finally shoot one of my exciting shorts. That makes me so happy.
Thanks for reading.