Sparknote: The Director’s Idea

The Director’s Idea: The Path to Great Directing by Ken Dancyger


Three broad areas of decision making that are critical to defining the type of director: (1) test interpretation, (2) attitude toward directing actors, and (3) how the camera is used (e.g., shot selection, camear angle, shape of the shot, point of view of the shot).


The competent director tells a clear story, even an effective story but the audience’s experience of the film is single-layered and flat.

The good director gives the audience a more complex experience, a layered experience that will deepen meaning, add subtext, and comlicate the narrative.

The great director not only adds value to the experience of the film but also provides a transformative experience. It gives another way of seeing the ordinary.

e.g. In The Bicycle Thief, De Sica transformed an everyday story of survival into a story about poverty and the shared humiliation of a  father and his son.


The unity of the production: It is critical for the viewer that the film be experienced whole. The textinterpretation, the performances of the actors and the shot selection act together to build the viewer’s experience.

The director unifies the production!


If plot is critical, character flattens.

e.g. Hollywood action-adventure or fantasy movies.

If character is critical, psychology is central, and the plot becomes secondary.

e.g. Wong Kar-wai’s avant-pop cinema, such as Chungking Express, Fallen Angles, Ashes of Time, In the Mood of Love; Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation.

The dircetor needs to clearly bring into the foreground his own values: what are important to him and what are his obessessions in life? All of us in a fashion are curious about the corners of ourselves.

The director must have a conscious personal and creative set of goals when choosing to commit to a story.


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