You know the story.
A person wants to direct. They write a thing. They direct a thing. The thing isn't as great as they thought it would be. Yet, more and more, the film industry has seen the rise of the writer/director, the artist that wants to do it all.
So what is the difference between a successful writer/director and an unsuccessful one?
Usually, this combination doesn't work for one of three reasons:
1) The director sticks to their ideas too closely, and the film reflects a certain narcissism.
2) The director is not as great a writer as they are a director.
3) The writer doesn't know the first thing about directing.
If you're an artist that wishes to do one or both of these, you might be considering becoming a writer/director. Maybe you are tired of handing over your screenplays or waiting for your screenwriter to get back to you with rewrites. Maybe you've just decided that the final product is missing something and you believe it would turn out better if handled by you and only you.
Some people - Lena Dunham is a famous example of this - pull off the writer/director combo beautifully. Even if you aren't a fan of Lena, she's done her thing and executed it to perfection. Zack Braff did something similar with Garden State.
The real difference between them and those that don't succeed is almost entirely experience-based.
Both of these artists had to fail A LOT before their big projects actually worked in their favor. As you guys know, Em and I are pretty big fans of failure. It teaches us way cooler tricks than success ever has.
Zack Braff is an actor that knows a little bit about failing. His entire movie is about having a hard go of it and how one comes back from that. This is an actor that had been on television trying to break into film for quite sometime, and his final product, while successful, did not lead to multiple big hits later on.
Lena's film Tiny Furniture was not her first attempt at filmmaking. She had made several others, none of them very good, but all of them with the same voice. Lena did have a bit of an advantage because her parents were willing to invest a great deal of money into her career. Being artists themselves, I imagine they could see that her failed attempts were really just the artist's way of honing her voice.
And that is other thing that really separates some films from the pile come festival season - the voice.
Let's look at some examples of the difference between Em's voice and Juj's voice on film.
The following images were done in the same location with the same model, but you can clearly see the different voice in each set of portraits.
Emilia's work has a very airy feel to it, almost like a painter with a light touch. Her shots are typically subject-focused, flattering, and almost whimsical at times.
Julia's work is much moodier. She tends to shoot/art direct with a grungier feeling, manipulating the light for a slightly edgier vibe.
All four stills are beautiful, but very different. You can see just from looking at these images how important choosing the right team to portray your voice can be.
When we read a script, for example, and are trying to decide whether or not it fits into our production portfolio, the number one thing we look for is whether or not the voice in the piece is not only clear, but is also original and something we could see under the FCF umbrella.
A lot of scripts we receive do not fall in line with our company's growing library of work. We are a very brand-focused company, which means that if something doesn't align with our values or the stories we know we tell best, we have to say no to it.
There are some really great projects we've had to turn down in the past simply because they needed to be told by another team.
The same should be true if you are an artist trying to decide whether or not write and direct your own piece. If you feel you have the necessary experience, then go ahead, babe! We are all for people trying their best to make art, and who knows your art better than you?
But if you're hesitant because you maybe aren't the best writer or have never directed anything before in your life, our suggestion would be to start slowly. Get on set as an AD first or team up with a seasoned writer and then strike out on your own. Even if you have a movie that you want to make in mind, it will likely take a bit of time for you to gain the funds necessary to make that movie a reality.
The time will pass regardless, so you might as well learn on set and hone your voice while you wait for the dollar bills to roll in.
How do guys feel about writer/directors? Do you find their stories inspiring? Do you think you could do it? Let us know in the comments!!