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Phil Cooke Podcast

Oct 15, 2019

Whether you’re directing commercials or directing films, these tips from Phil Cooke will make a difference in the quality and length of your career and help you be the kind of director that crew and actors want to be attached to.


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Do you have a message or story the world needs to hear? As a Hollywood producer and media consultant, I offer advice for leaders and creatives each week on filmmaking, digital media, publishing, strategy, communication, leadership, culture and faith – to help you get from where you are to where you want to be in your career.


More about this episode: Directors: 5 Critical Things You Need to Do On Set

In the old days, directors were contract players, so they were directing nearly every day of their career. But in today’s freelance film and video world, most directors aren’t shooting more than once every two or three months. As a result, many directors don’t understand how to act on a set or how to lead.  


Here are five things that have made an important difference for me on a film set or in a TV studio:


1) Do your homework.   Once you get to the studio, the cash register starts ringing. From the moment you show up on the set you should be ready to make decisions. Things may change in the course of a shoot, but standing around on the set trying to decide what to do will cause the crew to lose confidence in you.


2) Don’t be a jerk.   There’s enough pressure on a film set without an immature director losing control. Remember this: Once you start yelling, you’ve just sent a message to the crew that you’re out of ideas. 


Don’t let your insecurities or fear get the best of you. Stay calm. Be nice. When things get tough, that’s when you need the loyalty of your crew most of all.


3) Always be open to ideas from unexpected places.   I was shooting a TV commercial in Houston once and was stumped. We had changed the spot during shooting and were trying to decide a big payoff shot for the end. Nobody had a good answer, until a low-level prop assistant made a suggestion.


It was brilliant, and it saved the commercial.  I was glad I was listening.


4) Be confident.   The crew is looking to you for answers and they need to know you have a vision and everything is going to be alright. Even if you don’t know the answers, don’t let them think you’re lost. Don’t be afraid to ask for help but be a leader. The set will fall into chaos if the crew starts believing you’re not up to the task.


5) Finally, lavish credit on the crew.   This is your team. They’re the key to making you successful. Forget the arrogance. Dump the pride. You’ll be amazed at the ideas, innovation, and unexpected answers they’ll come up with. Encourage them, and they’ll reward you with an incredible effort.


Good directors of movies, documentaries, short films and other media know how to inspire people to do amazing things. Next time you’re on set, apply these directing skills to get the best out of your crew and the best performance out of your actors. Inspire your team to greater creativity!



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