In the film industry, who doesn’t want to be captain of the ship? This intense desire has sparked a sudden deluge of film professionals taking up the challenge, with technicians and creative people taking what they see as the ultimate plunge.
But is everyone equipped to be captain of the ship? There have been many instances where regular folk have made good movies for years and an equal number of success stories where technically talented people have made excellent cinema. Filmmaking became much easier when it went digital, and the lure of the silver screen has tempted many a professional, mainly those who work in close quarters with a film, to turn to direction. The most recent among these are fashion designers. So while Vikram Phadnis recently announced that he will soon be turning director with not one but two ambitious projects, designer Sabyasachi too announced plans to direct. In the past, editors, cinematographers, writers, choreographers and even producers have either dreamt of or actually wielded the megaphone on film sets.
In the realm of choreographers, we’ve had Farah Khan, Ahmed Khan, Remo D’Souza, Ganesh Acharya and Prabhu Dheva breathing life into their passion to direct, and recently more of their ilk, like Ganesh Hegde, has announced major plans to turn to this art.
Cinematographers Anil Mehta, Santosh Sivan and Binod Pradhan have also tried their hand at direction.
Some editors too have gone on to become successful directors and classic success stories include the likes of Subhash Ghai, David Dhawan, Bela Sehgal and Rajkumar Hirani. Writers like Anurag Kashyap, Tigmanshu Dhulia and Sriram Raghavan have already proved their mettle as directors, and now despite receiving a lukewarm response to their first films, writers Sajid Farhad and Milap Zaveri are trying their luck at direction again. The latest entrant to the director brigade is producer Sajid Nadiadwala, who with his film Kick surpassed box office records. This week, we ask industry professionals who according to them is best suited to call the shots as a director:
I started with television and then moved to films, so television helped me understand the craft of filmmaking. When you assist a director, you learn to handle the logistics of filmmaking. But it is not necessary to assist to turn director. You could be a writer, editor or cinematographer… you just need to be on a film set to understand how a film is made. If you don’t have any background in filmmaking, it is a huge setback because filmmaking is not only about holding a camera and shooting it; there are 13 departments one has to juggle.
If you have a good story, a visual of how you want things to shape up and have worked in the industry, you are pretty adequately equipped to direct a film. Also, for any director, technicians play a big role.
Direction is all about instincts. I never assisted anyone but have been writing for quite a while. I believe there are two kinds of directors – one is a writer-director and other is an editor-director. Writer-directors are very well versed with the scene and choreography of the scene. A writer director goes to a cinematographer and tells him how he visualises the scene, what kind of shots he wants, and how he wants them. But, once again, it’s more about your instincts and how you picturise a scene. However, it can also work in the reverse. A writer tends to get too attached to his script and this could get in the way of directing and editing. But today we have some great writer-directors like Imtiaz Ali and Anurag Kashyap in our industry.
The other category is editor-director and these directors are able to visualise how they want to shoot a film and then edit it. They see each frame and know exactly what shot they want, whether a close-up or zoomed out frame. They don’t shoot unnecessary scenes. We have some brilliant examples of editor-directors like Subhash Ghai, David Dhawan and Rajkumar Hirani, who were editors before they became directors.
Filmmaking is like multi-tasking and you can’t be good at only writing or editing. You also need to keep in mind the other departments like costumes, lighting, backdrop, production design and many more. So it is unfair to say who is better placed to become a director. A cinematographer is the one who has actually shot an entire film many cinematographers have failed when they have tried their hand at direction. The most successful film professionals who later became directors are writers, editors and choreographers.
From the writer’s point of view, the advantage is that since he or she drafts the script and, they can visualise every scene.
Just like the script is the backbone of a film, a writer understands the flow and tone of a film. That’s a huge plus when directing a film. While it’s an advantage to assist a director, I don’t think it is mandatory. I didn’t assist anyone but learnt the craft by being a writer first.
If you have a good script and know how you want to tell the story, then direction is not very difficult as there are other departments who take care of the rest of the work. In fact, a visionary producer helps a new director to put everything into place for a film. One has to be passionate about films to turn director, and if you love cinema, it’s not very tough to turn director. The challenge is surviving in this industry. You can’t say that only choreographers become successful directors as there are mixed success and failure stories.
I believe the more time you spend on the sets, the more training you receive in the run-up to becoming a director. So I believe someone who has assisted on, say, five films is well equipped to start directing. Then, of course, editors, cinematographers and writers can be super impressive as directors as they are part of the process of filmmaking. When an editor shoots a film, he knows what visual he wants and how it will look on the monitor, which camera angle will look good and he knows he he wants to edit the scene. So, sure, that’s an advantage. We have some visionary filmmakers who were editors before they turned directors like Subhash Ghai and Rajkumar Hirani.
It’s difficult to say who makes the best director as everyone has their own ideas, own vision and own way of visualising how to direct a film. From a choreographer’s perspective, I believe choreographers come up with entertaining films because they know how to entertain the audience. Also, when you shoot a song, you make sure it looks best so when you turn director, your scenes look very good. A choreographer is very clear about what he or she wants to shoot.
I believe what’s most important is talent rather than whether one has experience as an assistant director or an editor. When a choreographer directs a song, he looks at everything, from costumes, to the backdrop, to the steps. When he or she turns director, they have a clear vision of what they want. They choreograph every scene in an entertaining way.
It all depends on the individual and their capabilities. But as a producer, I have seen editors turn out to be the best directors. An editor is clear about their vision and what scene they want and how a scene will look. They don’t over-shoot a film or a scene as they know what looks good. Earlier, directors were totally dependent on an editor but after we went digital, directors also sit through entire edit.
Editors and writers are best placed to take up direction. An editor knows what they should bring to the table and what shot will look best and which angle. Similarly, writers draft the story, so they are clear about what they want to shoot and how they want to tell the story. This is perhaps because are among the most important aspect of filmmaking.