Don Cheadle and Adam Sandler in Reign Over Me
Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle star in Mike Binder’s Reign Over Me (2007). Photo: Sony Pictures

1. Take a nap at lunch. The A.D and producer will always beg you to have some meeting or scout something, or talk through another scene, but always say no. They’ll learn to find other times for your attention. You need time alone in your trailer or on a walk or a drive for yourself, or hang out with a buddy. Get a half hour where no one’s asking you something at the very least. The second half of the days dailies will thank you for it.

2. Be a nice guy/gal. Being the King is short-lived anyway, and being a cranky King is only going to make life miserable for the people around you and they can put stuff in your coffee when they bring it to you. The truth is you’re not the King; you’re the coach and the dad, and the mom and the uncle and the cop and the cheerleader and the executioner. You’re everything. Just be nice though. It makes life so much better.

3. Immediately spit out any coffee that has a “piss-like” taste and then go back and re-read point number two.

4. Once you film a scene in a way it works for you, encourage the actors to do a take their way. Anyway they want. Be open to it. It may not feel right to you, but I promise when you’re rested, showered and fed back in editing—weeks or months later—you’re using a lot of this very stuff in your final movie.

5. Avoid the company move. A good director has to also think like a good producer. If money’s tight, you don’t want to spend time in the middle of the day moving everyone around town unless it’s absolutely necessary. Rewrite scenes to fit locations if you have to; you want lots of shooting time. Having a great new location is nice, but if it costs five hours of acting time you probably made a bad trade.

6. Protect the acting time. Your job is to protect the acting time. Yes, it needs to look good, the costumes need to be sewed right and the props need to be right. But it all doesn’t mean a damn thing if you didn’t give the actors time to make it right.

7. Keep the on-set hair poofing to a bare minimum. If you’ve got a hair person standing around making everyone’s hair perfect in between every take you need to quietly piss in their coffee. In real life hair isn’t always perfect and all it can do is make the actors obsess on something that they should be forgetting about.

8. Don’t let the hair people anywhere near your coffee.

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