Elia Kazan: On What Makes a Film Director


The director does it because he has to. Who else will? Who else loves the film that much?
— Elia Kazan

Yesterday I was asked to write about why I wanted to be a Film Director – which, despite my unwavering passion for filmmaking, proved to be a lot harder than I’d anticipated.

The easy answer was “because I love movies”… but that wasn’t good enough or accurate enough.

It’s very hard to explain why anyone would want to be a film director. Why would you want to do that? What drives you? You must be a creative and a technician, while being both an artist and businessman. You must be cynical yet sentimental. You must conjure inspiration, commit with perspiration and maintain unwavering dedication. You must have all the answers to all the questions, all the time. It’s damn hard work and can hurt so damn much – there are certainly a thousand easier ways to earn a living.

Directors Close UpBut while searching for inspiration I remembered a piece of writing I read many years back in my faithful copy of Directors Close Up (if you haven’t got a copy of this book, get one pronto!)

The book is a brilliant read and features interviews with Directors Guild of America nominees for outstanding feature film directing. James Cameron, Frank Darabont, Clint Eastwood, Ron Howard, Ang Lee, Baz Luhrmann, Sam Mendes, Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone and Robert Zemeckis… they’re all in there and the personal insights into their filmmaking processes are priceless for professional and aspiring directors alike.

But it was to Appendix C on page 315 that I turned… because tucked away in the back of this book hides a transcript of the single most inspiring speech for anyone who’s ever wanted to be a Film Director. (more…)

The Importance of Location Scouting

COSMOS Banner Locations


“Location. Location. Location.”

Picture some of the greatest films in cinema history and y0u’ll be blinded by a vast canvas of filming locations… we’re not talking constructed film sets here, we’re talking places out in the real world that the crew have travelled to.

Filming on practical locations is at the very heart of cinema itself — Just watch this stunning tribute montage to the late, great Tony Scott (expertly crafted by sigug) and keep an eye on all the amazing locations he used…


Casting the ‘Astro-Nuts’

COSMOS Banner Casting

CASTING THE ‘Astro-Nuts’

“I always take great care in casting my movies… you develop good characters with good casting.” — Ridley Scott

Every Director will tell you… Casting is everything.

The history of film is littered with examples of both good and bad casting. In the hands of an experienced actor, the corniest dialogue can effortlessly bubble with life… but an inexperienced actor can just as easily murder a film’s chances of success. Will your film serve as an inspiration to others… or a warning?

Watch this short video of director Ed Burns and commit his golden-nuggets of advice to memory…


Good filmmaking is 95% good casting — Ed Burns, Director.

Committing to finding the right actor for the right role is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make as a filmmaker. You can only make a good film if you cast good actors… and be under no allusion — good actors are hard to find.


Storyboarding – Make Your Movie, Before You Make Your Movie

COSMOS Banner Storyboarding


“A picture paints a thousand words… or something like that”

A Storyboard is basically a huge comic strip of the film, used to help visualise the scenes and how they will be seen through the lens of a camera.

Here are a few examples of the COSMOS Storyboard for a sequence where one of the main characters has the run through a forest at night:

Storyboards can vary in complexity, from simple ‘stick-figure’ line drawings to intricately crafted works of art in their own right.

Alien Ridleygram

Alien Ridleygram

Many major motion pictures will have entire teams of Storyboard Artists methodically working their way through set-piece sequences or even the entire film.

Some Directors produce their own stylised storyboards, allowing their vision to be translated directly to the page – Ridley Scott’s Ridleygrams are not only incredibly beautiful, but a fascinating insight into his visual process. (more…)

%d bloggers like this: