Six Things I Learned On Set

I don't really remember when I started directing. It might have been in high school drama club. I wrote a play called VELVET ROSE about a prostitute who accidentally (?) sleeps with her father. At 15, for some reason I was a little obsessed with New York (and prostitutes). It might have been because as a family stuck in Central Florida where movies were one of the only forms of entertainment - along with the Melbourne Square Mall - my brother, sister, mother and I bonded over a healthy obsession with Scorsese.

Here are the opening lines as "Rose" arrives in New York accompanied by a seasoned trick.

JENN: Who the hell are you? FRANKIE: Ya know this ain't a playground. I think you missed your stop. JENN: No, no, wait, wait... Sesame Street is two blocks down.

Minus some depressing poetry, VELVET ROSE was my writer/director debut. But I didn't know that then. It's sort of like when you first realize you're gay - you don't have a word for it, you just let some strange feelings and thoughts work themselves out of the cramp in your brain until they take shape and you call it something. Maybe then I was already a filmmaker, I just didn't have my P-Touch handy to label it. And maybe this whole paragraph is pretentious which also means, that's right - I'm a filmmaker.

Coming from that first moment (prostitution) and now watching footage of my most recent creative attempt (narcissism), I've learned some things. I don't know if they are intelligent things, or if anyone should pay any attention at all. I'm pretty certain there are several For Dummy books written on why not to read any of what I'm about to share. But for me and whatever project is next, this list will help me be the kind of director I aspire to be.

1) STOP TALKING. This is something I've really noticed in recent years. New directors talk too much. Just shut up a little. You don't sound cool, you sound like you don't know what you're doing. Say one or two things per take to adjust and then do it again. Everyone might think you're stupid and you shouldn't be directing, but all your work should be in prep. On set, make it simple. And just remember: If you hate to listen to yourself while you watch your footage, everyone else probably hates listening to you, too.

2) BEING NERVOUS IS FINE. We all are. It doesn't mean you're not confident. It's a crazy thing to make films. It's not a natural state of affairs. So go ahead - feel weird about it. Just don't overcompensate and be 1) a dick or 2) a hack.

3) DO ONE FOR UN-SAFETY. This is a new one I learned for myself. We always "do one take for safety." And that's fine. I've gotten into self-loathing moments when I haven't done one for safety. But then do one for un-safety. Change it up. Do something weird or nutty or fun. Give yourself options when you cut. I got lucky - most of the F TO 7TH footage is great (thanks cast and crew), but most takes are the same. Sidenote: The first takes are usually the best because there is a natural awkwardness and honesty about them.

4) LISTEN TO THE VOICE IN YOUR HEAD TELLING YOU NOT TO LISTEN TO THE VOICE IN YOUR HEAD. If something happens and you have that split second of terror because you don't know the answer, take a second. Think about why there is a red flag slamming you in the face. Don't let that other dumb voice take hold of the smart voice and tell you to hurry up or it's not a big deal. Once a big deal, always a big deal.

5) BE WRONG AND THEN FIX IT. I like to be right ALL THE TIME. And I think I am. But sometimes I'm really wrong. So instead of making a big to-do about "looking like a director," realize that you're being an idiot and then make a better choice.

And most importantly: