Shy camera guy turned director Advise
Recently, I've taken some camera operator jobs that require me to direct models or personel, for
Behind-The-Scenes videos and fashion shows, and Im quickly realizing that Im not very successful with it. In the past, I've mainly worked on studio shoots and with producers/directors who were directing the talent. Im very technically minded but not a great "people-person". Does anyone have some advise for a shy camera guy who has just moments to ask the subject to be succinct and look pretty for the camera?
[Michael St.Onge] "Recently, I've taken some camera operator jobs that require me to direct models or personel, for
Behind-The-Scenes videos and fashion shows, and Im quickly realizing that Im not very successful with it. In the past, I've mainly worked on studio shoots and with producers/directors who were directing the talent. Im very technically minded but not a great "people-person". Does anyone have some advise for a shy camera guy who has just moments to ask the subject to be succinct and look pretty for the camera?"
It seems you already might know the answer to this question, but here is my take on it.
Yes, this is not as easy as it appears, and it's a big jump from operating to directing, and not something learned overnight. The talent is relying on you to make them look their best. Often this means 'telling it like it is', and being critical and pointing out mistakes, even small ones. I have watched people in your situation let mediocre takes be the keeper because they were too shy to say something critical, and it was less stressful to let it slide. This leads to disappointment in the final product every time it happens.
I would say stick with what you're good at, and what you enjoy doing. And pass those other gigs on to someone else. Perhaps you can find someone in the opposite situation to swap jobs with.
Or subcontract out those gigs, or the parts of those gigs to someone that is more suited to the task. Then you get the best of both. This is no different then farming out sound sweetening, graphics work, or color grading to someone with specific skills in those areas.
Doing things that your not doing well, is a real career killer. In the long run you might (or not, who is to say) develop 'people skills', but this is really part of what you are getting paid for now. If you are not delivering, word will get around and you might find yourself lacking enough work to develop those skills. It is better to fess up to clients that you are not up to a particular task, then to struggle and lose your credibility which could cost you jobs that you are more suited for.
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." ---Red Adair
Where were you on 6/21?
I agree with Scott.
For most people, directing is something you either discover you can do or not.
I remember the day I became a director. Early in my career I'd been hired to shoot a commercial for the local Minor League Baseball team. We were in the stands during a game with about 10,000 fans in the seats (Arizona is a HUGE spring training and baseball market.)
I was getting nice crowd shots but they weren't "active" enough. I mention that I was going to wait for something big like a base hit or home run to get a more "active' crowd shot - when the team rep disappears for a few minutes and comes back with a freaking bullhorn, and hands it to me.
To this day I remember the shiver that went up my spine.
I was totally and completely intimidated with the idea of using a bullhorn to bellow at crowd of total strangers. For about 10 astonishingly long seconds. Then a little voice in my head kinda said, "Suck it up, idiot - this is your job." So I keyed the bullhorn and started directing the crowd.
Directing is like singing. If you can, you can. And if you can't you can't. You can practice, you can lose (or just learn to manage) the jitters that come with everyone looking directly at YOU when the money's on the line and the decisions have to be made. What makes those decisions comfortable and successful is the preparation you do in advance of "the moment" but in the end, either you're a person who learns to step up and do whatever is necessary to get the results you need right now - or you aren't.
It really no more complicated than that.
"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Connor
You have a really good point about being honest upfront to save face. If you know you arent proficient in a certain area, you shouldnt lie and say you can do it.
Over the years I have been taking on jobs and challenges presented to me, even outside my expertise (Im a bit of a "multi-specialist"). I am highly adaptable, so I shouldnt be afraid of directing or advancing my communication skills in general. Its something I need to experience. Also the producer put some added, unnecessary pressure on me to do it.
Being shy has nothing to do with it. Just tell folks what ya need. Make em comfy by adhering to their personality. You don't have to be comfy doing it... you just have to do it.
My two cents:
- Learn the persons name and use it anytime you can
- Give yourself some time to know them. See if you can call them on the phone or better take a coffee with them before the shooting day. If you can't, give yourself some time to be there and see how they feel, what they need. Just be natural about it.
- Be yourself
- Do yourself a favor and have a shooting list
- Different people respond to different approaches when in front of a camera. I usually go in this order:
1) Let them be (some people just do their work fine)
2) Treat them as any other assistant (please look here, walk from there, etc.)
3) Break the fear of failure by making an intentional small mistake (and laugh about it)
4) Be assertive (not aggressive, just be the boss)
- Remember that ONLY ONE PERSON is the director. If there are family, clients or any other kind of people giving instructions that you can't just fire, get close to your actor, look at him in the eyes and give your instructions with a soft firm voice.
I hope this helps
You have to ENGAGE your talent. Make them feel as if you are truly interested in their appearance. Their job is to look the best on camera for the time necessary; your job is to make their full potential show through the lens. ENGAGE. You have to overlook your flaw for the sake of the shoot. Have an idea of what you are needing so that you can give HONEST CRITIQUE; remember mistakes happen so you have to roll with the punches. Give appraisal, talent appreciates approval along with critique.
I'm also a moderately shy person, however my directing skill improved greatly after reading Directing Actors by Judith Weston.
It's a book that not only breaks down how to speak to actors to get them to understand you and give you the performance you want but it also dutifully breaks down the process of preparing for a narrative shoot by breaking down the script and so on; the latter being directorial skills a lot of newcomers tend to ignore. How can you direct an actor if you haven't broken down the script to understand the character, their goals and motivations?