I’ve spent most of my time as a film maker directing out of necessity and, consequently, being expected to direct. I don’t consider myself a director, and it’s not my goal to be one. My main interest in film creation has always been video editing, and well, there was only one way I could get footage to edit.
Like most young filmmakers, before I’d taken any media arts classes or knew anything about directing, films were the product of my friends and I filming with no real regards to the quality of what we made. I was usually in charge of what we filmed, when we filmed it, and where it was filmed. Where the camera was placed, blocking, and acting were usually collective or individual decisions. Many of the scripts we filmed were mine, but I didn’t have a grand vision of what they looked like. I only wanted to see them on screen in some form. At the end of it all, the script only served as a medium for my friends and I to goof off. The best moments were often improvised or unexpected.
The search for these great, improvised moments would ultimately affect my directing style. Even after I took my first media arts classes, I continued to direct minimally. I gave more thought to where the camera was placed, but beyond blocking, actors continued to get little direction from me. Many of the films I’ve made in the past few years have been mostly improvised. I prefer to capture actors and their interpretation of the basic story, interfering as little as possible.
My directing style may also be influenced by the fact that I’ve been a video editor longer than I’ve been filming and directing. This has given me a “we’ll fix it in post” attitude. I tend to rush through production to get to post production where I feel more comfortable. Sometimes I wish the footage I had to work with was in focus or that I had a different shot to work with, but turning bad footage into comedy gold or a decent product is a welcome challenge. Editing is usually where most of my “directing” happens.
Perhaps what I really enjoy, during production at least, is cinematography. My favorite projects are usually the ones where it’s mostly me, the camera, and a video editing program. As a cinematographer, I can simply capture the actors, environments, and objects and depict the feeling of the scene. I don’t have to worry about directing. I’m not looked to to tell people how they should be.
Of course, I won’t lie and say that my timid and anxious nature has nothing to do with my directing choices. When I’m not making something silly with friends or part of the crew on someone else’s film, I’m a bit of a loner. Working with groups particularly those that contain strangers is very stressful to me. I get anxious from expectations that I know what I want and how to get it in a timely and coherent manner. I can’t enjoy what I’m doing. Really all I want is to capture and compile the best of my actors’ performances together. I don’t want to assert a grand vision on people, and yet it’s often assumed that I do.
For me, animation, 2D and stop-frame, is the perfect combination of cinematography, video editing, and directing. It’s when I’m alone that I feel most free to make a film my own. With animation, I can work alone from concept to final product if I want. I can set the camera, environment, objects, and characters where I want and work in a relatively stress-free environment to make a product that is as rough or as perfect as I want it to be. Any voice actors or crew I need, I can work with individually with no distractions. The demands and expectations of everyone involved are easier to deal with when they’re not all in the same room.
Whether I’m a director or only a video editor in disguise is debatable. Regardless, I intend to continue creating films and, if it won’t be as a cinematographer, video editor, or animator, it will be as a director. I’d prefer to move away from directing live-action films though and focus on stop-frame, 2D, and 3D animated films where I feel more confident.