I Want Your Job: Film Director
'You need to have a thick skin'
Thursday 01 June 2006
Richard Bracewell, 36, is a film director. His debut feature film, The Gigolos, will be released in the UK in September.
How did you become a film director?
By practising. By making as many short films and television programmes as I could. I totally immersed myself in films - when I wasn't making them, I was working in a cinema where I could watch them. Film directors eat, sleep and drink film - it borders on an obsession. It's an all-consuming job where you're always learning, so you need to write, shoot and direct films as much as you can.
How should someone go about becoming a director?
You simply have to work. It's no good planning a four-hour epic for 15 years - you've got to be in production as much as possible and always have a project on the go. Do a camera course; learn the basics of using a camera, sound and editing. Then go out and shoot your own five-minute short film.
What's a typical day on set like?
If you need to film scenes outside, you have to get up early to make the most of the natural light. There are continual problems on set: an actor might leave his trousers at home, or the equipment that was supposed to turn up is delayed on the M6. It can feel like being in a nursery, with everyone screaming at you - and in the middle of all this, it's your responsibility to find solutions, and remain calm enough to make creative decisions. At the end of the day, you sit down to watch the "rushes", which is the raw material that you've shot the previous day. You get four or five hours sleep, then it starts all over again. When you're not filming, there's a lot of editing and setting up meetings.
What skills does a great director need?
You have to be a diplomat. You have to marshal a whole load of creative people, who often don't get on with each other, and your job is to stop things turning into a bun-fight. But you also have to be strong and stamp your foot if you're not getting what you need, because the buck stops with you. And you need a thick skin, because when your film comes out, it's your reputation on the line. Be prepared that if people don't like your film, they may criticise you personally.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to be a film director?
My single biggest piece of advice is to get yourself some talent: a great writer, a fantastic actor or team of actors. Check out online film communities like www.shootingpeople.org, post a message saying you're looking for a great script. Or get in touch with drama schools and talk to actors in their final year, and find out if they want to work on your film.
What do you love about your job?
What I love most is the moment when the camera starts filming the first shot of the day. It's like the whistle at the start of play: for those 30 seconds between "Action!" and "Cut!" you're totally focused.
What's the salary and career path like?
There's no rule of thumb. As a freelancer, you negotiate your salary from job to job. A television director might earn £1,000 to £2,000 a week. A top director in Hollywood can have a star's salary. The career path depends on what kind of director you want to be, and it's fairly unstructured. You might start doing pop videos or commercials, and then gradually move on to television drama, then films - but there are lots of directors who buck the trend.
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