directing Director War Stories

I'm not a seasoned Director by any means. I'm working on my second short film, and researching how to be better at directing.

That said, any of us out there who have good/bad/ugly stories to share about directing their own films? Be it short or feature length? I'd love to chat about experiences and lessons learned.

For my first director story, I'd say my lesson learned was trust your people more than yourself.

The first scheduled day of shooting our short film "Kushtaka", we had an earthquake in Alaska. It was the first major earthquake in a long while, and being on Kodiak island, we were warned that a large Tsunami was headed our way. Everyone evacuated to high ground, and we were worried for our son who was in school at the time.

Luckily, his school was evacuated safely, and all that was left was to wait for the wave to hit. 30 minutes later, no wave. Everyone was safe, save the people at the site of the earthquake in Anchorage. They were rocked pretty hard.

Come to find out there are different types of quakes, and we lucked out with a side/slip quake that doesn't cause any tsunamis.

After everyone stood down from the alarm, my first thought was that the filming day was done. I thought, no one would want to film after such an event. Much to my surprise though, everyone showed up, excited and happy to work. We built the set, and prepped for the nighttime shots. It was a beautiful thing to see everyone together and working on this, even with such a stressful event.

That showed me, even if you think something might not work out or people might quit on you, there are always times and people that wont. That moment, I knew we could complete the film, no matter what life threw our way.
That’s a pretty epic story.

A story from directing my first larger short film a few years back, in which we had a pretty large sized crew. I was pretty new at being the at the healm of such a large ship at that point; although I’ve worked on plenty of larger sets at that time as a grip.

I think a lot of the crew could tell I was inexperienced when it came to directing talent in rehearsals. I just had to learn to make it not about my ego but focus on getting the results for the editing room.

Months later a lot of the crew messaged me, telling me how impressed they were by the film. I guess lesson learned being, even though you’ll fail in certain areas, be confident in your ability to get the results because in the end, that’s what people care about. Being a part of something special. Not you looking like a badass on set.
Sometimes when you follow the rules, you still have to break them

Figured I'd share this one. One time my shooting schedule got all messed up due to weather and I had the proper permits. But now the proper permits would not line up with the days they were scheduled for. The shooting length in days was the same, just rearranged, and the camera package/grip truck etc. were rented for that many days. So what to do!? Deal with the red tape of refiling permits and extend schedule by a day or more? Or Shoot? Well shoot of course! The permits in the windows of the vehicles look legit, if a cop examines, take the risk of telling the story. Yup, it worked.

So sometimes, when you do everything you can to shoot by the book, you have to burn that book. But at least you had that book in your hand at one point. ;)

Pro-Tip: Put rain dates in your permits. This helps with reshoots and pick-up shots as well.
Not you looking like a badass on set.

That's awesome you were able to keep your head on straight during such a large production. I guess getting some major set experience definitely helps by way of osmosis. I will need to PA some other people's productions in the future.

So sometimes, when you do everything you can to shoot by the book, you have to burn that book. But at least you had that book in your hand at one point. ;)

Pro-Tip: Put rain dates in your permits. This helps with re-shoots and pick-up shots as well.

I feel like all of lower budget Directors end up doing this eventually. Business are too focused on benefiting from the production, not the production benefiting from their assistance.

I'm running into that too, with places wanting proof I have "insurance". Thing is, insurance costs over $1,000 easy. That's $1,000 that can go into the cost of materials for the sets or costume. That could buy a pro-sound guy for a couple of days. There is no way I'm paying for "insurance" when I can just have people sign a hold harmless agreement for the cost of printer ink and paper.
I am a very inexperienced filmmaker. But on my current film that I’ve been filming for years at a lot of my cast have abandoned the project and by now towards the end of the project ive become nearly completely alone in it. What went from a crew of like 20 has shriveled down to like 4 other people + me. Generally just because the others didnt have the vision, which was in part due to my lack of experience. Somehow the film still gains incredible ground and is coming towards the end of production. Due to me and the remaining crew’s persistence. By that I mean me and my oldest friend. The rest are uncertain but just thought to stick with it anyways since it’ll be over soon. After the film is over I’ll be back to update this and say wether it worked or not lol.