Make Something

Leadership Lessons From My First Time in the Director’s Chair

The highlight of my first semester in The New School’s Media Management M.S. program had to be directing a short film for my Media Design class. Outside of editing a few family videos this was completely new terrain for me. Rest assured, I got my Ava DuVernay on when I was selected to lead one of four groups in creating a short film that combined all we had learned in audio, video and story production. Being in the hot seat taught me a few things.

  1. Tailor Your Plan to Your Resources

    The whole class was given the assignment to create a storyboard, of which four would be chosen for production. My first try was a full on soap opera. When I learned I would only have access to two actors, I went in the opposite direction. My bare bones story was entertaining, but it was also clear to everyone that it would be easy to make. Simplicity paid off in production, too. Our vision was so clear, it didn’t matter that it was most of the group’s first time producing a video, we finished shooting ahead of schedule.

    Storyboard1 Storyboard2
  2. Lay the Foundation

    The role of the director had the most work to go along with it. As soon as I knew what was required of me I made sure to knock out my responsibilities (specifying character motivations, shot list, and shoot location) quickly so my group members were able to do their jobs without delay.

  3. Keep an Open Mind

    You may have noticed in the lead photo, our tripod is a side table and a stack of books (plus a scarf for tilt capabilities). No matter how much you plan, things happen. When one of my group members forgot to bring a tripod, I didn’t panic. When my Director of Photography complained our video was coming out shaky, I didn’t panic. I kept my eyes and ears open for solutions. When someone pointed out at a side table I didn’t scoff at the silly idea, I headed to be bookshelf and made our tripod even taller.

  4. Give Everyone Space to Shine

    All of my group members were taking part in a learning experience, but that didn’t give me reason to feel like I should tell everyone what to do. My videographer had a background in photography, so I asked him what he thought about framing. My production manager was supremely organized, so I allowed her take the lead on our shot log and checked in to make sure I wasn’t overlooking anything. For my actors, I gave them emotions and scenarios to react to, but let them perform what was most natural for them. Given the opportunity to shine, everyone stepped up to the plate.

  5. Don’t Be Afraid to Step In

    The inverse of my third lesson. We all had new roles to play in post-production, but I wasn’t afraid to voice my opinion if I thought it would help the final product. The key was to always do so from a place of positivity and selflessness. After the shoot wrapped, I collected music for post-production, but I presented my selections simply as options. I gave up the editing chair when it was time for the sound editors to work their magic. When the sound editors encountered an issue with finding two musical scores that worked well together, I stepped in once they were out of ideas.

The result is something I’m pretty proud of:

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