Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Audio Blog - Directors and Producers

Here it is - the second audio blog. You should know the drill. Click play on the YouTube video and read along with the transcript. I recommend headphones.

A little while back I sat down for coffee to catch up with a friend in town. Among his many talents, he's most recently taken on a project for a feature film as the director.

So we talked about his project and working on the script and pulling all the pieces together to produce a movie and then we talked a little about my writing and plans for the blog. Somewhere between talking about plans for full-time writing and explaining what a Blogathon is, he made some comments about the look of my blog and recent redesign and overall look of the Follow Eric brand.

It's a subject I love to talk about so I'm sure I went on for some time until he made a comment relating the kind of detailed work I put into my blog and the work a producer does in the making of a movie.

I nodded my head along in agreement with what he was saying. Nodding my head and pretending like I know exactly what's going on is basically how I got through high school. But this time I decided to own up to my lack of knowledge and inquire a little deeper from someone who would know much more on the subject.

So I asked him, "What's the difference between a director and a producer?"

Maybe to some of you, the answer is obvious. But to me, it's something I've never quite understood ever since high school when we were assigned the task of producing a televised news show.

I remember we gathered up in a large classroom and starting handing out job assignments. The popular, good-looking kids grinned wide when they were chosen as anchors and the nerdier kids had to share the grunt work of video recording and editing.

Finding myself in neither camp and looking for any job, I was eventually appointed as one of the producers.

The slacker in me thought it sounded great - like an important title without a real job description. And to be honest, I don't remember doing much of anything during the project except walking around and making sure other people were doing their jobs. I enjoyed it but it didn't help me understand exactly what it is a producer does.

So I asked my friend, the director, what a producer does and how it differed from a director's job.

It's never made more sense to me than now.

He explained that a director casts the vision for a movie, or a scene in a movie, or a particular desired outcome for a shot. A producer's job is to make that happen.

A director might say he wants a scene to act as a fast-paced opening sequence or a climactic turn and the producer goes to work on securing the proper equipment and lighting and setting the scene and blocking the camera work and actors. It's a laundry list of tasks and details to execute exactly what the director wants.

This isn't meant to make the director look lazy in comparison. Both director and producer need each other. That's why their jobs sometimes appear to overlap.

Years ago, at my church in Albuquerque, I helped put on a Christmas play. It was an original play, written by our worship leader at the time.

We worked together, pulling in volunteers to help make costumes, create sets and to act.

I remember meeting in the sanctuary for the first run-through of a scene. I think we all had an idea of what we thought everything would look like and sound like in our heads but you never really know what to expect. So in preparation, I had assembled a binder with a script just like I had learned to format in my high school directing class with plenty of room in the margins for notes. And as I watched our worship leader watch the scene unfold, I took extra care to note his reactions to an actor's reading or his suggestions for blocking. I scribbled furiously with each change and just as furiously ran my eraser through any alterations.

I couldn't do the work the director was doing. I could try but it wouldn't be near the same quality. I would question my own decisions and waiver with each choice in how the big picture would look. Some people are just gifted with seeing the whole picture all at once. It's just not my gift. But when it came to the smaller pictures, to the details, to whether an actor stepped in or cheated out or held a prop or was lit from behind - that's where I stepped up.

And I loved it.

I thoroughly enjoyed being responsible for catching all the minute changes and keeping track of all the blocking and paying close attention to every detail. It's just how I'm wired. I'm a details person and whether it's a school project or a church play or a blog, I love the details in the execution.


Where do you see yourself in this director/producer spectrum?

You might find qualities of each in yourself but I'm sure you'll find you sway more one way than the other. It's something to think about. And I hope you take time to share your thoughts with me either on the blog at or in the comments for the Youtube video. And if you've enjoyed this, I hope you share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for listening.


Listen to the previous audio blog: Lucky 13 and the Spelling Bee

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