This Is What A Director Looks Like: 7 Women Share Their Perspectives on Leading a Production

Author : bjrfdnhdfhfh
Publish Date : 2021-04-23 19:17:40


This Is What A Director Looks Like: 7 Women Share Their Perspectives on Leading a Production

When you think of a director in your head, what image comes to mind? For a long time, I pictured a Steven Spielberg or a Martin Scorsese type, wearing a tan vest and a baseball cap, huddled around the monitors or chatting with a leading actor. We all know these images. We’ve all seen them; in magazines, in behind-the-scenes footage, on Oscars night. But I wanted to know what it looked like to see a woman in that role, on set, leading all the action while calling “Action!”

Women are finally being recognized now — especially this awards season — for their fantastic work as directors. We all, especially the next generation of directors, deserve to have just as many images of these capable and confident women in our mind, leading a production like the bosses that they are. Whether it’s Emerald Fennell directing the hell out of the brilliant Promising Young Woman while incredibly pregnant, or Chloe Zhao, looking chill and completely in control on the set of Nomadland. This is what a modern leader on a film set looks like.

Over the last few weeks, I spoke to seven women across the industry about their experiences behind the camera as a director. Yes, we discussed appearance and fashion, because I wanted to know what they were wearing — not for runway reasons but for TCB reasons. Is a hoodie too casual when you’re in charge? Is a dress too fancy? Is it all about pockets and practicality? Because along with perception comes perspective. From women who have occupied the director’s chair for decades to those that are just breaking through in the industry today, these sharp, talented visionaries shared their best advice, their favorite parts of the job, and their optimism that their industry is slowly but surely moving in the right direction.

WHAT IS YOUR ON-SET UNIFORM?
Many of the women I spoke to described a similar uniform, but for a variety of reasons. “You have to consider what you wear, because what you wear projects how you want to be perceived,” Tamra Davis, director of films such as Billy Madison, Crossroads, and Half Baked, told me. When she was starting out, Davis said, “I wore really simple, boyish clothes. I tried not to look too cute or sexy because I knew that I didn’t want to be perceived like that. I didn’t want them to think of me as somebody that you date. I wanted them to think of me as somebody that they have to listen to. I like wearing button-down shirts. I don’t like to show any cleavage. I don’t wear heels. I don’t show legs. I wear nice clothes, but they secretly are fancy. I try to look almost more like my crew.”

Nikole Beckwith, who directed the upcoming film Together Together with Patti Harrison and Ed Helms, described a similar look, saying, “My rule for directing is I wear very comfortable shoes, like clogs. I wear comfortable black pants and a black shirt and I usually have a fanny pack so I have everything. It’s just function. I’m thinking, I want it to feel like pajamas because I’m going to be standing up and working for like 16 hours.”

Jude Weng, director of Finding ‘Ohana on Netflix, also described her look as much more functional than fashionable, saying, “I’m a really physical director, so I dress in a way that allows me to move. I wear Blundstone boots because they can get wet and they’re no problem. I do a lot of hiking for location scouts, so I wear prAna pants, and they’re outdoor pants that can also get wet, [for when] I’m climbing into a river or whatever is needed in order to get the shot. I wear a button-down shirt because I feel like there’s at least a certain level of professionalism, because as the director of an episode or a movie, you are looked to as an authority figure, and that’s my uniform.”

That probably would’ve blown Susan Seidelman’s mind back in the late ‘70s when she was attending film school and the early ‘80s when she began directing features such as Smithereens and Desperately Seeking Susan. “I had no idea what a director was supposed to dress like, let alone a woman director because there weren’t any that I actually knew of,” Seidelman said. “I had heard of some, but there weren’t a lot of role models and there certainly were no images, or very few that I was aware of, of women on set. So I just wore whatever I felt like wearing without really thinking about it.”

And for some, their on-set get-up is already decided for them, such as when Aidy Bryant found herself directing in her character’s wardrobe for two episodes of the upcoming third and final season of Shrill on Hulu. “There were pieces of that for me that I was like, damn, I wish I had some pockets right now, but I’m in a little lady’s dress. There are some pretty funny pictures of me in America’s pinkest little dress (at left), and I’m at the monitor with headphones on. I was like, I wish I didn’t have little heels on or I wish that I had more pockets. But I’ve felt very comfortable on sets as I am, not all made up, as a producer for many years now. So I didn’t feel too much pressure about that. I think more than dressing the part, it’s harder to sometimes act the part, which is to be firm, or push back or say, no, we’re good. We’re moving on. I think sometimes because how I come off is super sweet or friendly, it can feel jarring to people. But I’ve gotten more comfortable doing that. That’s part of making something and having a vision and making sure it gets executed the way you want.”

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WHAT WAS THE MOMENT YOU FELT LIKE A DIRECTOR?
Ok, so you’ve got your uniform, you’re prepared, you’re excited, and you’re directing. But is there ever a “moment” where one can truly feel like a director? For some it was in film school, for others it was a film festival, and for Nicole Delaney, the director of Thirsty, which was part of the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival and FXX’s Cake series, it was simply the moment she stepped behind the camera. “Directing sort of scared the shit out of me and also was [euphoric],” she said. “It was suddenly this feeling of all of the things in filmmaking that I had synthesized, where it occurred to me that this was how all of those storytelling instincts, everything was going to come out. It was a euphoria being behind the camera for the first time and continues to be.”

For Kari Skogland, director of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier on Disney+, it was some real on-the-job training. She found herself going through what she called “director bootcamp” when an actor friend called her and asked her to direct 1997’s Men with Guns after the original director had dropped out. But she had read the script, didn’t love it, and was ready to fully pass on the opportunity before the friend convinced her to come to set and meet everyone. “So I met all the actors. We sat in a room and I said, I know what this script is. I’m not going to do that movie, but if everyone’s willing to rewrite and kind of go on the fly, and you guys are up for the adventure, then, yeah, I would take that on. That was on a Sunday, and I hit the ground on the Monday. We didn’t know what the ending was going to be. Every day, every night, we would go in and rewrite all the pages for the next day. So by the time I finished that project, weeks later, I thought, yeah, now I’m a director.”

It clicked for Davis when she was attending film school at LA City School, making Super 8 short films. “When I felt like I could translate my vision to film, and then when I showed them in the audience, and the audience responded the highest towards my movies, I think that’s when I first felt like a director. I felt like I was able to communicate in the language, that I had talent to do it. You learn that in film school, because you sit there and you watch 20 to 30 other students’ films, and you’re like, oh, mine worked.”

It was a bit more glamorous for Seidelman, who recalled, “The first time I realized I was a director, was when I went to the Cannes Film Festival because my first film Smithereens was, surprisingly, and shockingly to me, and everyone involved, accepted into the competition there. I got to Cannes and I looked around, and I saw all these movie posters, and not just Hollywood producers, European producers, people I had read about or heard about, and I realized that I’m here. My film’s gonna be showing on that big screen and it was definitely a surrealistic feeling. That’s when it dawned on me that this wasn’t just film school. This was the real world.”

Though not everyone gets that moment to take it all in. For Bryant, she said, “I was so busy that I wasn’t feeling so wistful, it was more just like, okay, we got to move if we’re gonna make this day. But there were a couple of moments where I’m acting, and then I finished the scene and said cut. There were so many times where I think our crew, it took them a beat, but those were fun moments to me because it was just like, yeah, I’m the director.”

WHAT IS THE BEST PART ABOUT BEING A DIRECTOR?
Working with others and inspiring others was a common theme among the women I spoke to, and as Skogland told me, “The most joy I get is when we’re doing a scene because that’s where it comes together. The set looks like chaos to the outside person, and then it galvanizes. And then we all watch. When we have created together a scene, a shot, that’s extraordinary, whether it be the combination of the costuming and the lighting in the end that performing, in the moment when we’re all glued. We all share this sense of accomplishment that every one of us had our part in bringing that alive. I find that to be electric.”

“I love how collaborative it is,” Beckwith said. “Writing is so solitary, but directing is like, let’s all do this together. It might be physically demanding and mentally demanding and depleting in those ways. But I think for the spirit, the soul, the heart, it’s very restorative in terms of the creative process.”

For someone like Seidelman, the magic happens long before anyone even steps on set. “I think developing the project, working with the writers, working with the production designer, the cinematographer to conceive what the story is about, what’s important, what’s unique about it, how it’s gonna look, who the actors might be, to some extent the actual filming. It’s an evolving process. While it’s fun, getting the film that you can see in your head down on celluloid, or video or digital, but it’s the more day-to-day part of it. The real fun is conceptualizing it and putting together the crea



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