I love cinematography, but I also love directing. In reality setting the lights, deciding on camera position, and guiding the actors is all part of directing. The thing is that normally there are two directors on set — the director of photography and the director. The director of photography works with the director to decide on the lighting style, camera choice, lens choices for each scene, camera position, camera movement and blocking the actors if they have to move with the camera, so pretty much the entire look of the movie.

The director is the guy who is responsible for making sure every piece on a movie set is moving in the same direction. It take a team of people to make a movie, and the director is sort of like a music conductor. He guides the song but each musician contributes their own musical style. He has the ultimate say on set, but there is always collaboration between him and the DP, makeup, set design, head gaffer, camera operators, and all department heads.

With all that being said, I want to talk about the two different directing styles I see in movies today. For the most part the directors who focus on the visuals, or on the actors performance. Each director has his/her own blend of the two. Ask yourself, what kind of director are you? Do you tend to focus on the performance of the actors, or on the way the movie looks. The best director can focus on both and use them to tell a compelling story.

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How can you better be a mix of both? It starts when you are casting actors. You want to have actors who are talented enough to make the character their own. A good actor will be able to bring the character to life. Before you even start filming you need to know what style the movie is going to be, and what type of lighting you want for each scene. Once you have a good style plan, you need to work with your director of photography and make sure you are collaborating, so that he can light a set while you work with the actors. Once a set is light, you can make your visual adjustments with lighting changes, lens choice, and camera position.

Before you start rolling, talk to your actors and tell them what part of the story arc they are at. They need to understand what emotions they need to portray and what has happened to their character up to this point in the story. Because you casted well, they can take some simple direction and make that character come to life. There is a lot more to directing than this, but this will give you a good foundation. Don’t take on the whole load yourself, collaborate with your DP in visual style so that you can work with the actor and juggle all other on set responsibilities.


Josh Layton

Josh Layton is a 22-year-old cinematography student from Pennsylvania. He attends school at Center for Creative Media, a Christian film school in Tyler, TX. He draws much of his inspiration from adventure and being in nature. He cites bacon as one of his greatest creative muses.

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