Actor Alec Baldwin
Alec Baldwin in The Cooler

Prepare as thoroughly as you can.

I storyboard extensively; it helps me to learn
my film. Sometimes the boards don’t work on the set and that’s fine, but it’s something
to start with—a blueprint that can be deviated from, if necessary.

Don’t let the DP decide.

I don’t think a director should let his DP decide shots for him.
Of course, DPs have great ideas, and many times their ideas are
better than yours—or can be effectively merged with yours—but you’ve
got to bring that strong visualization to the table. Just be prepared
to expand on it.

Don’t keep the movie in your head.

It’s important not to keep the movie just in
your head. Share it.

Hire the best focus pullers in the world.

These guys are gods! If you skimp in that department,
your film is going to suffer for it. I’m a stickler for good focus, and I
move the camera a lot, so it’s challenging. In indie films, when
you don’t have time for a lot of takes, you need an amazing focus
puller. They’re worth their weight in gold.

There’s always an ingenious solution, so don’t
compromise vision

When time is kicking your ass, you need to
be able to make quick decisions on how to make your day. Sometimes
it’s by dropping a
scene that you ultimately don’t need, or cutting a lot of dialogue
or opting for one smart camera move in place of five or six shots.
But don’t just give up on the scene because the clock is ticking.
There’s always an ingenious solution.

Always cast the best actors you can for day players.

Avoid casting friends and family because they’re cheap. You’ll
ruin your entire film and sell out all your good performances.
You pay for what you get. Even if the guy has only one line, a
stiff non-actor is going to pull the audience out of the scene.
Get the best actors you can for even the smallest of roles.

Try to maximize your locations and reduce company moves.

Time is coverage! And time saved is time you put on the screen.
A smart and seasoned line producer is key.

A, B, C: Always be communicating

Make yourself heard… and understood… and
be open to ideas and suggestions. You can never be too clear
about what you’re trying
to achieve. Directors internalize a lot of things and no one knows
the script like you, but you can’t expect everyone to see it the
way you do. They need to know what your vision is, and you need
to impart it upon them freely. Tell everyone your movie. Believe
me, it will rub off.

Treat your crew with respect.

These guys are busting their asses for you—and will continue to
do so if they respect you. Talk to the grips and the electricians
about your vision for the film. Don’t look down upon them. Make
them feel included. Show them your storyboards. Talk about other
movies with them. Acknowledge them and greet them in the mornings.
Thank them after wrap. It’s the small things that earn you big

Never stop loving movies…

…or watching them. There’s always somebody who’s doing something
interesting and groundbreaking. Keep learning. Pay tribute to those
with talent; don’t bash them. We need better movies.

Don’t shoot actresses making love with their
bras on.

That’s a pet peeve of mine. It feels fake. No one believes it…
and the whole time the audience is thinking that the actress didn’t
want to get naked, rather than being focused on the scene.

Don’t overscore your movie.

Music is essential. It’s also essential to know when you don’t
need it. You don’t need the music to tell you something we already
know in the scene. It needs to complement the scene, not be redundant.
Too often in horror films and thrillers, the music is foreshadowing
the action and scares to come. The same with romantic comedies
and dramas. I like to hear music in film; I just don’t want to
be beaten over the head by it.