FILMMAKERING LIKE A BOSS : The importance of doing multiple things

(Thomas Tulak) #1

Hello, I’m Thomas Tulak, and this is Filmmakering Like A Boss, a weekly micro column about how to filmmaker like a boss.

Like many of us in the filmmaking world, I am a multi-hyphenate. If you’re unfamiliar with that term, it basically means I am able to do multiple things. My job title contains multiple hyphens. When asked how I’m able to help a production I can say, “I’m a producer - writer - director - cinematographer - camera operator - editor - actor - sound recordist - sound designer - audio engineer - and I’m able to fill most any position on an indie film set.”

Yes thats a lot of things. My main passion though is directing; and I feel like writing and editing go hand in hand with that; but I list all my hyphens for two very important reasons, and those reasons are what I’m going to discuss today.

1st, and most basically: if you don’t list everything you can do then the person doing the hiring wont know.

By telling the hiring producer, “I want to work with you, I’m a director.” you are putting yourself in a box. That producer only knows that you can direct. But there is only room for one director. If the project they are hiring for already has a director, guess you doesn’t get the job.

The producer might like you and want to work with you, but may not have an opening for the one thing you mentioned. Thats why it’s important to learn multiple things, and put those things out there. The producer knows where the openings are on their crew, and if you give them options on where and how they can use you, you make yourself much more useable. Wouldn’t you rather have a job on set even if its not the one job you want, rather than not have the job at all?

As a producer who has hired and fired people from my crew over many years and many projects, I can tell you that even less experienced people with the right attitude of “I’m here, ready to work, what ever you need.” are preferable to the people who say, “I do only this one thing and I’m great at it.”

Incidentally, if you give yourself some experience producing and putting a team together, you’ll understand clearly the statement I just made.

2nd, and more importantly, If you stick to one thing than you are limiting what you know to that one thing. you put yourself in a box. Then your view of production will never go beyond the edges of the box you’ve put yourself in. If you’re only an actor then you only ever see the set from the actor’s point of view, but there are so anything things that effect the flow of the set that the actor never sees.

However, by working on both sides of the camera, and seeing the set from every angle, you learn more, and you understand more. Understanding more makes the one thing you’re doing easier.

If you’re an actor and the director tells you to hit a mark, all you know is, “the director said to hit that mark.” If you jump behind the camera, you’ll quickly learn why that mark is there, making it more important in your mind, and easier to hit.

if you’re a director and you’re shooting a scene but all you know is directing, you’re limiting yourself to a narrow view of the scene. Basically you’re doing half the job. But if you also dabble in editing, it becomes easier for you to think in terms of how each shot will fit together in the edit. This will help you make sure you get the shots you need for that edit.

Here is where I’m adding my unofficial 3rd reason. “Unofficial,” because it doesn’t necessarily apply to every one and it’s fine if it doesn’t. It does however apply to me, and I strongly suggest you apply it to you too.

If you’re a director you should also be an editor, at least to a small degree. You don’t necessarily have to study it and become a pro, but you should have a basic understanding of how to edit so you can envision what the final finished product will look like.

The edit is the “make or break" of your project. Even the most perfectly directed film can be destroyed with poor editing. I cannot understate the importance of a good edit. Personally, as a director, I find it difficult to turn over final control of my project to some one else, some one who has the power to completely un make everything I put together. This is why I have always done all my own editing.

Back in film school, I had a final exam where I had to take a movie trailer and re cut it to make it look like the movie was about something else. Believe me when I say, this was an easy task.

I’ve been on set, not as the director, and heard the director say, “This looks great, I can’t wait to see what the editor does with this.” That thought process blows my mind! I’ll never understand how you could envision something, work so hard to put it together, then turn over complete control of the final product to some one else.

In the video below, The great Steven Spielberg gives a tour of the Universal back lot, while reflecting on his early days in the industry. He talks about how he used to sneak onto movie sets when he was 16 to watch movies being made. The whole video is worth a watch, but specifically at the 8 minute mark he talks about how he took a master course in film editing in order to learn to direct.

Thank you for reading this week’s Filmmakering Like A Boss, I hope this has inspired you to think about adding a hyphen or two to your job title.

Look out for another article next week where I will begin discussing tips on directing.

I’d like to invite you to watch some of my filmmakering in action at

Until next time,
-Thomas Tulak