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Direction's Fragments: ep 2

A journey through the world of directing with some brief considerations and a few anecdotes in no particular order, plus some (not required) advices for the youngest.

By Gianfranco Gatta

A critic, there is always a plethora of critics waiting for a director at the gate, decreed that a director is good if he can do at least one of these three things: knowing how to place and move the camera, knowing how to give rhythm to editing, knowing how to direct actors. If he knows how to do two of them he is a phenomenon, and he is considered a master if he is capable of all three. Who knows!

There are three aspects that superficially outline three respective directions: theatrical, television and cinematographic. The theatre director has a close relationship with actors, sharing months of continuous and tiring rehearsals. The television director, especially for live broadcasts, is like a chess player who already knows the next four/five moves, he must have in mind the sequence of shots as if they were in the editing room. The film director has a visceral relationship with the perspective and movement of the camera. But in the end it all comes down to personal tastes.

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Audiovisual direction has few grammatical rules, one above all: "The crossing of the axis". If a character enters from the right he must exit to the left, just as in a dialogue a character is taken up by the profile that turns his gaze to the right and the other turns to the left. A logic comparable to our Consecutio Temporum. Then there is the perspective. Here you enter the artistic choices of an author: you can be correct and so to speak "clean" or choose to be an anarchist and go "on abstract art". The critics will take care of defining the invoice and the public will take care of establishing its success.

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A great Italian artist, the painter Michelangelo Pistoletto, roughly stated in an interview some time ago: "Today, more than ever, I feel like a free man and this involves me a great responsibility. Today I make an art of responsibility ". Great concept.

What it means to direct a staging lies precisely in the word responsibility. The director is responsible for the entire show staged. His are the final choices and his is the responsibility of the work of others, for better or for worse.

Directing is not a profession that can be taught, you have to "steal" it with your eyes and the more you work, the more you learn.

It is absolutely necessary to be wary of all those schools, including university courses, which claim to teach Direction; they are all slobs and as the saying goes: "Those who do not know how to do it, teach".

The only way for a young person who is not presumptuous is to go on the field. He should join first as a volunteer, then as an assistant; if you gain the Master's trust, you become Assistant Director. Here two paths open: either you remain Assistant by profession and working for other directors will ensure you an economically peaceful life (at least once it was like this, making two films a year) or if caught by the sacred fire, you try the way of the direction debut, with all its economic and existential risks.

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Do you remember? "Is your family rich?..." Visconti was born a noble and was accustomed to a comfortable life from an early age; Fellini was born a plebeian, arrived in Rome thin as a nail and to make ends meet he was a cartoonist and portraits for the military. Both became the titans of Italian cinema; they had the same motivations, while making a completely different cinema from each other.

Il grande rischio per un autore è quello di innamorarsi perdutamente della sua opera, di perdersi nel narcisismo del “film della vita”. In Italia, senza fare nomi, ci sono stati casi eclatanti di sceneggiature portate avanti per più di venti anni: “Corto Maltese”, “Caruso”, “Celestino V”, per fare degli esempi che in pochi conoscono. Lo stesso Fellini era ossessionato nel realizzare “Il viaggio di Mastorna”, ideato nel 1965 e che per tanti motivi non riuscì mai a portare a termine; ci ha lavorato fino alla sua fine, 1993.

The great risk for an author is to fall madly in love with his work, to get lost in the narcissism of the "film of the lifetime". In Italy, without providing names, there have been striking cases of screenplays carried out for more than twenty years: “Corto Maltese”, “Caruso”, “Celestino V”, to give examples that few people know. Fellini himself was obsessed with making “The Journey of G. Mastorna”, conceived in 1965 and which for many reasons he never managed to complete; he worked on it until his death in 1993.

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It is not necessary to study Freud to be a director, life experience is enough to be able to interact with others; after all, the direction is the result of one's own experiences.

Another risk for the director is that of falling into a sort of “Stendhal Syndrome” caused by the Primo Piano. Staring at the frame of a close-up for a long time, whether on a television monitor or in a slow-motion video being edited, means scrutinising the soul of the character, entering with him in total empathy, discovering his personality traits, to the most unknown. In the long run, he becomes a sort of mentalist capable of stealing very personal secrets. It is exhilarating at first because he feels more like a divinity, but over time it becomes devastating for his own psyche.

To be continued



Credit Images: Photo by KASHILEMBO WABU on Unsplash