Welcome back to another exciting blog post in our WunderTRE(k) series! In this blog, we’re going to talk about how the project was directed by Ross. Even though it says I’m the author, after this forward, the rest is Ross’. Before we hit that directing blog, get familiar with the WunderTRE(k) Brandfomercial Project!
If I’m being honest, I’ve never considered myself much of a director. It’s not that I’m downplaying myself, it’s more a matter of my awareness that it hasn’t been a skill that I’ve nurtured… Or so I thought.
One of my mentors, Stu Maschwitz, recommended, in his book The DV Rebel’s Guide, another book called Directing Actors by Judith Weston. I’ve read bits and pieces of it (if it were available in audiobook format, I could devour it), and I’ve picked up a few things. I’ve also watched most of the directing master class with Ron Howard.
One of the things that really scared me on the WunderTRE(k) commercial is that I didn’t feel my directorial skills were up to the task. We had a very limited time and if I couldn’t extract the results I wanted out of Coby, or any of the other cast members for that matter, then it was a dead project.
While Coby would really have to comment on this, I really felt like I found my voice on this project. Instead of “Coby, I want you to do [fill in the blank] on this next take,” I tried to give him, as the Englishman, something to respond to, emotionally. For example, “how does the Englishman feel about [fill in the blank].”
While there is no doubt in my mind that Coby and the rest of the cast made my job easier, the biggest point of affirmation, for me, was our board game scene with Bella and Steven. Neither of them had ever been in a situation where they had been required to act in front of a camera. With adults, it’s a little bit easier because the communication barrier isn’t as big as it is between an adult and a 7-year-old. With Steven, all I had to do was tell him to be a jerk. But, Bella provided a different challenge.
Sass Him, Sass Him Good
I have to credit her parents with raising a courteous and respectful young lady. I needed her to be rude to Steven, and it went against her core values. While I can’t remember exactly what motivation I gave her to get her to be sassy, she didn’t get out of her shell until I gave her a target with no feelings. She couldn’t be rude to Steven’s face, so, we ended up putting a tennis ball on a stand behind Steven, that she could look at and be rude to. Intellectually, she knew that she wasn’t being rude to Steven by acting, but, emotionally, it felt wrong. However, she had no issues being disrespectful to a tennis ball that had no feelings. From where the camera was placed, she could look at the ball and it looked like she was looking at Steven.
By the end of it, she got into her groove and was able to actually look at Steven while delivering her line. It was really a triumphant moment for me because I was able to get exactly what I wanted from her, without her feeling like she was betraying herself.
It may not sound like a big deal, but, the victory was HUGE on set, that day.
Beyond that particular scene, overall, it was really the first time that I had ever felt like I found the rhythm of the story and kept in tune with it throughout the entire production.