“I think the toughest thing for a director to do is to know what he wants. It’s not how to get what you want; it’s knowing what you want. So many people make movies and they don’t know what they want.” –Stephen Spielberg
As many people know, Spielberg is probably my favorite film director. Not all of his films are favorites, but he is extremely talented at managing the three main responsibilities of the director: directing the camera, directing the actors, and directing the screenwriter (although this is an area where he is weakening). Yesterday Stu Maschwitz posted a video that goes a long way towards explaining why.
This clip was shot by the American Film Institute in 1978, and it’s a principle that I strongly believe in. Obviously, good directors don’t have to be former animators, but animation is an excellent training ground because it requires considerable planning, and so it forces animators, and directors, to decide what they want before they start production. This approach will always give better results than the make-it-up-as-you-go style of improvised filmmaking used by directors with no pre-conceived vision. There are no exceptions to this rule.
Also, here’s a clip where Spielberg explains why he always draws his own storyboards. Even with a budget large enough to support staff artists, he does the initial sketches himself. This is another important principle, since the storyboard artist is the guy who directs the camera. If the director renounces this responsibility, he is no longer the director of the camera, and he probably didn’t know what he wanted in the first place.