So you want to be a director?

Cornerhouse Digital Reporter Treise O’Brien headed down to the exposures session presented by Directors UK event…

Last week I found myself at Cornerhouse for the So you want to be a director? event. I was one of the first to arrive in the Annexe and took my place in the front row – always keen to listen up, and not miss out. I wasn’t sure what to expect. A former film student, and older than most of the people in the audience, I’d been to talks like this before and was hoping I wouldn’t just hear the usual advice of posting scripts to yourself or starting as a runner.

We were introduced to directors Andrew Gunn and Nigel Keen with clips of their work from Hollyoaks and Survivors. This was a great way to put the captive audience in a mindset of what the job of a television drama director is.

Andrew stated in film – the director is king. However both Andrew and Nigel commented that the director’s vision in television is not always spoken about but you still get to express your creativity. Your teams are there to share the vision, which the director puts their own stamp on. This often means only giving the editor one or maybe two ways to tell the story.

Both the panelists were former directors of Hollyoaks and spoke about the freedom they had directing the show (unlike many other television dramas). Even though Hollyoaks wasn’t seen as the most ground breaking programme by the industry, both Andrew and Nigel showed that working on the soap was a great opportunity to learn and be an expressive television drama director.

Nigel went on to reveal a real gem. Hollyoaks would, and have taken on directors based on a short film; so sending your short film to the producers could get you a gig! Nigel is a director who had worked his way up through the ranks. He started as temp postal clerk on TVAM, moved to runner/production assistant, to operations assistant, to assistant floor manager, to floor manage, to second assistant director to first assistant director, which he did for years, then in 1999 he did his first job as a director. What was interesting about this was that even though Nigel had gone through this traditional route he still welcomed emerging directors from a different direction – this was very refreshing.

During the session we discussed  how the lines of film and TV are blurring. It’s increasingly hard to get films financed in the UK, therefore Shane Meadows and his contemporaries are directing for TV, which means that the TV director is being pushed out of their place. However the TV director has the fast pace shooting discipline that the film director does not, which has lead the way for people like David Evans (a former TV director) to go on to direct Harry Potter.

All in all a lot of great advice was shared throughout the session, but the one thing that really stood out for me – go out there and make films, it’s cheap to do, and technology is there. You just need to make sure they’re good.