How I Prepared to Direct My First Movie

Yesterday, we wrapped the first half of my directorial debut, I Will Make You Mine. I am still in shock. Like, how did that happen? There is no doubt I could have done it without the guidance of Dave Boyle - my mentor/producer/1st AD/stand in/EVERYTHING.

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But here are some other tools I used to get ready, for those of you gearing up for a film who don't have a Dave Boyle on your crew.

MASTERCLASS

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These online classes are taught by the masters (not just a clever name) - everything from cooking with Wolfgang Puck to Fashion Design with Marc Jacobs. I was introduced to the Samuel L. Jackson course on acting via some friends and loved how thorough it is - that's why I wound up using their All-Access Pass to take directing classes with the greats: Martin Scorsese, Judd Apatow, and Ron Howard (above). Each instructor has a different style, covering everything from rehearsal to scene deconstruction to editing and set design. They're very visual, but in the weeks of preproduction I didn't have time to sit in front of my computer to watch and began listening to them as podcasts in the car, which also worked. Once I'm done with this movie, I want to go back and look at the lesson material, which is a goldmine of resources (see below). The directing class with Spike Lee just launched, and I am really excited to hear what he has to say before we begin filming the second half of our movie.

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Just Shoot It Podcast

This podcast is hosted by Matt Enlow and Oren Kaplan - all about filmmaking, directing, and storytelling in general. I actually discovered it via an acting podcast, That One Audition (also great) and started binge listening to downloaded episodes while I was in Alaska and had no access to the internet. I found them to be really practical - and they made me feel less alone, especially the interviews with people I've worked with before like my Go Back to China co-star Anna Akana and Maggie Kiley (my director on Caring). Check out their latest one with my friend from college, Jessica Sanders!

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Like Brothers Book

I've been a longtime fan of the Duplass brothers - maybe it's because I also come from a micro-budget film background, and they inspire me to believe you don't need money to tell a good story. At any rate, I didn't spend any money on their book, Like Brothers - I borrowed it from the library - and a few weeks ago, I happened to be at a party where Mark Duplass himself was. I went up and told him how I had just finished his book, and that I was about to direct my first feature. He was enthusiastic and incredibly nice, but before I could really go into it, JON FREAKING HAMM interrupted us. Jon Hamm apologized but I wasn't about to continue schmoozing with Don Draper standing there. Maybe one day I'll write another movie about that whole experience.

CineScout Viewfinder App

Dave suggested I download this app to take pictures for our location scouts which would match the lenses we were using. They really helped me visualize the film - and in black/white EVERYTHING looked better. Even my empty living room floor!

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Studio Binder

I have been in front of the camera for almost two decades now but don't know much about camera angles. Watching these Shot List Videos and downloading their Shot List Template forced me to quickly learn how to identify the look of handheld, tripod, wide/medium/close up shots. I'll admit that I spent a day making a shot list and didn't end up looking at it once when we were actually filming - but preparing this way helped me quickly visualize what I was imagining and communicate it with my DP, Bill Otto.