What is a Director?

What exactly does a director do? Here, director Delyth Thomas gives her thoughts on the subject. For videos of directors talking about the craft, please click "Directors on directing" on the right, or scroll to the bottom of this page.

Directing is like a multi-dimensional jigsaw puzzle with egos and weather thrown in for good measure.

All sorts of elements need to be considered in the early stages of pre-production as they’ll inform the outcome of the show. How big is the budget, how tight is the schedule, what kind of cast do you have (child actors have a legal limit to their on-set/performance hours), how big will your crew be, location or studio shoot, how much post production time is there? The list goes on… Keeping all those elements in mind as you pore over the script with the most ambitious of intentions, your vision for the piece begins to be more tangible as you brief Heads of Departments and begin casting. It’s a real bonus to cast leading actors early on, but it often takes a while to find talent that all parties agree on – more so if it’s a co-production between the UK/another country where even slight accents can become an issue. Keep an eye on how the schedule is shaping up, so you can ensure key scenes are allocated the time you’d like to spend on them, likewise regular discussions with the DOP and Designer about style and tone are invaluable when considering locations, or discussing set design.

Meantime, somehow between recces, casting, meetings, rehearsals (rare, but so useful) you’ll have broken the script down to determine the shots you need to tell the story. I tend to scrawl choreography plans, my artistic prowess being limited to matchstick figures, the more artistically gifted might storyboard. Then comes the partial coronary with the realization that you’ve been a tad over-ambitious for the budget and schedule. So you prioritise the essential, the creatively necessary, and reluctantly ditch the indulgent.

Finally the shoot begins: long days, the buzz of fantastic performances, great crews pulling together to make beautifully crafted shots; the frustration of external elements thwarting the grand plan-  planes/rain/snow/illness/seagulls, the perverse satisfaction of spinning on a sixpence to turn the shoot around in the face of adversity, and  finally at the end of play, the evenings spent tweaking and honing the followings days work. It’s all part of the joy of the job.

Into post-production and the hugely satisfying process of editing the show begins. There are unexpected delights and challenges getting the rhythm and pace right, the editor’s creative input is often invaluable. Finally, grading the pictures, honing the sound design and score are the last pieces to slot into the jigsaw. Job done, show finished. It’s rarely the film you set out to shoot, often it’s as good, just different and at it’s very, very best, even better than you could possibly have imagined.

Delyth Thomas, Board member and director