Directing a script you didn't write: advice?


(Bri Castellini) #1

Been a while since I had an actual filmmaker question to ask! I’m gearing up to direct a web series in May that, for the first time, wasn’t written by me! All my previous directing experience has been for my own scripts.

Any directors out there have advice on staying true to other people’s worlds while also still bringing your own style to the table? @Directors


(Herman Wang) #2

It seems to me that communication is key here. Verbal instead of email to start, then followed up with script notes and storyboards.

These are the things I tend to do “in my head” when it’s my project :slight_smile: , but it’s the stuff that needs to get out there when someone else is involved.


(Ian David Diaz) #3

Hi Bri, well I make it a point not to give advice, but I can tell you what I do when I’m hired to direct someone else’s script. I read the script 6 times, then I speak to the writer, I don’t email I phone or meet up with them. I retain more when I see the passion from said person, what I’m looking for is the meaning and motivation from the scenes and characters, I make notes and afterward I send a follow-up email so we are on the same page.

Then I think about how I can show said meaning and motivation visually, or without dialogue, how can I move or frame a shot that visually shows fear, loneliness, anger etc, etc. 9 times out of 10 the audience doesn’t register the camera move/frame that expresses a mood but if you do it right subconsciously they will and in theory should connect with the scene. Also guiding the actor’s performance is crucial in creating and expressing the tone of the scene, once you know the meaning and motivation you’ll be able to steer them in the right direction.

Even if you don’t have time to use the camera the way you want and have to drop shots you still have actors to direct to display the tone of the scene. Or think of ways to do a Spielberg oner (a long take).

A shot list and storyboards help move things along on the day because time is the enemy. Also, a read through with the actor and rehearsals 2 weeks beforehand is always a good thing, you talk about everything in rehearsals so when you get on set it’s merely a formality. Well, that’s my 2p worth. Hope it helps.


(Maissa Houri) #4

I would suggest discussing with the writer what the vision is, what was the intent behind the script etc. what you may interpret while reading the script might not be the same as what the writer intended so you want to make sure you’re on the same page. They’re also trusting you because of what they have seen you do, so maybe ask them what is it about your directing style they like and what they would like to see you bring to the table. I hope that all makes sense!


(Allan Darius Brown) #5

Not sure if this relates, but I handed off the story writing for my series off in the middle of the third episode’s production, so every episode since (On episode 9/10 now) has been the other writer’s story. I mostly just try to speak with the screenwriter and get his ideas on how he wants scenes to go. Overall, it’s still my project but I want the story writer to be happy with it too.


(Joseph Steven Heath) #6

I must have a weird relationship with writers, because most of the films I’ve made that were written by other people, the writers have basically been like “Do whatever you want with it. It’s yours now.” I generally stick to the script, but try to throw in a little something extra to surprise the original writer. I do let them know about big changes, though. And one time, I asked someone to write a new ending. I’ve actually filmed four of his scripts and have never met him or talked to him on the phone or Skype or anything… I’m working on another script of his and still haven’t chatted with him other than through Facebook and email. I should really do that one day.

I’m not very helpful.