What Do They Want From Me?

By Patrick Tucker

The Director is bombarded with questions by the crew, and is tempted to cry out: "What do they want from me?"


He or she wants to know what your overall look is to be – in an ideal world they will have a chance to shoot some test footage so that you can all agree as to what you actually meant. They want to know if there are any out of the ordinary requests, to know which equipment to order, or to work out how to do it when the producer will not meet the bill for an expensive item.

Camera operator

The actual framing of the shot, the way it moves and develops, the focus changes – all these need comment and input from you after each take.


If you are confident that you know where your tracks are going to be, and can clearly indicate so on a plan or recce, then the crew can pre-rig them, and save you a lot of time getting the set ready.


They need clear information as to which directions you are to shoot in, so they know where to hide their cables – and get irritated if after spending ages hiding cables for one shot, they then have to re-route them entirely for the next.


The sound team of boom swinger and sound mixer can be just one person, but whatever combination you get, they wish to know from you well in advance when you might have split dialogue – that is, when it is not possible for one microphone to pick up the relevant voices, and so either two boom swingers are needed, or a stand mike has to be installed. The first needs money, the second, time. The sound team will also want to get from the location or set as many wild tracks as you can allow them – getting them there and then will take a few extra minutes on the set, and save you hours and hours of work in the dubbing suite trying to replicate something that would have been so easy to get on the day.

Set design

They need to know what your overall look is to be, and an idea of how it will be lit. They also need to know which bits of the set you will be seeing  for each shot – and to have the confidence that you are not suddenly going to swing the camera round and see a wall that they had been assured would never be seen.


They need precise descriptions of what you want – for them to spend a lot of time and money getting something only to find that it is not what you wanted means they will serve you less well for the rest of the shoot.


They are caught between your wishes, the demands of the producer to keep the costs down, and the egos of the actors who are always demanding new looks and new gear (especially for weddings). Their solutions is often to spend their budget on new clothes to please those they are going to meet more often than you, so when you come aboard the decisions are already made.


This department is the guardian of secrets and receiver of gossip – for they are the last people the actors come across before they step onto the set. Make friends with them, for they can be an essential bridge between you and the talent, and when you tell Make-up how you want everyone to look, be aware that there are other pressures on them on this most personal topic – the talent itself.

First Assistant

They need to know how much they can trust you – so if you tell them that you only have one more set-up for a particular scene and then do three more, they will no longer believe you. They are also often the person you brief as to the exact type and look of extras. A good First is not there to be liked, but to parcel out the precious time so that your film is better than you might expect from the time and money pressures.


You can either deliver to the editing suite a set of rushes that can be edited together to make the film you wanted and planned, or you can deliver a mass of shots that you hope will cut together to make something interesting – the choice is again yours.

And this is all before there are any questions from the actors....

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About The Author

Patrick TuckerPatrick Tucker is an internationally acclaimed stage and screen director with over 150 screen drama credits (including one feature film), over 100 stage credits and the founder of the innovative Original Shakespeare Company. He is the author of seven books, including the award-winning Secrets of Screen Acting (now in its 2nd edition) and The Actor's Survival Handbook, and is into his 15th year of presenting "Workshops for Raindance."

Hear Patrick in action on podcast.

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What Do They Want From Me, The Film Director?